Friday, June 14, 2024

Aryna Sabalenka speaks out after ex-boyfriend dies in Miami

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Aryna Sabalenka insists her “heart is broken” and that the recent death of her ex-boyfriend Konstantin Koltsov is an “unthinkable tragedy”.

The Belarusian former ice hockey player passed away this week, aged 42, while in Florida.

Sabalenka, the world No 2, is due to play in the Miami Open this week with her first match against her “best friend” Paula Badosa, and the 25-year-old has now commented for the first time since the tragic news.

“Konstantin’s death is an unthinkable tragedy,” Sabalenka said on social media.

“And while we were no longer together, my heart is broken. Please respect my privacy and his family’s privacy during this difficult time.”

Russian club Salavat Yulaev confirmed the news in a statement on Tuesday.

Koltsov, who played as a forward, featured for the Belarus national team in two Olympic Games, 2002 and 2010, while he also spent time across three seasons with NHL team Pittsburgh Penguins between 2002 and 2006.

“It is with deep sorrow that we inform you that the coach of Salavat Yulaev, Konstantin Koltsov, has passed away,” Salavat Yulaev said in the statement.

“He was a strong and cheerful person, he was loved and respected by players, colleagues, and fans. Konstantin Evgenievich forever wrote himself into the history of our club.

“May he rest in peace.”

While the Penguins added in a statement: “The Penguins extend their deepest condolences to the family and friends of former Penguins forward, Konstantin Koltsov.

“The native of Belarus was the Penguins’ first-round draft choice in 1999 and was with the team from 2003-2006, playing 144 NHL games. Konstantin was a teammate of both Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux during the 2005-06 season.”

Sabalenka’s father Sergey, a former ice hockey player, passed away suddenly in 2019 at the age of 43 due to meningitis, with the two-time grand slam winner calling him her “biggest motivation” after victory at the Australian Open this year.

Koltsov was renowned for his speed on the ice and represented the Belarus national team at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Vancouver in 2010.

Konstantin Koltsov in action for Belarus at the IIHF World Men’s Championships
Konstantin Koltsov in action for Belarus at the IIHF World Men’s Championships (Getty Images)

The forward also played 144 times for the Penguins and captured the Russian Super League title during his time with Salavat Yulaev in 2008 before retiring in 2016. A move into coaching soon followed, returning to the Ufa-based Salavat Yulaev as an assistant coach.

Sabalenka and Koltsov reportedly began dating in June 2021, according to People magazine, with the pair featuring frequently on the tennis star’s Instagram account.

Sabalenka lost in the last 16 at Indian Wells last week in three sets to Emma Navarro (3-6, 6-3, 2-6) after beating Emma Raducanu in straight sets.

While still intent on playing this week at the Miami Open, Sabalenka will not speak to the media after matches.

Sabalenka’s first round match against Badosa is scheduled for Friday in the round of 64.

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