Sabalenka shares new detail after ‘unthinkable tragedy’

Birthday wishes for Konstantin Koltsov

Source: Instagram/Aryna Sabalenka

World tennis No.2 Aryna Sabalenka has paid a heartfelt tribute to her former partner, who died suddenly this week.

Konstantin Koltsov – a former ice hockey player who competed in the NHL for the Pittsburgh Penguins – was found dead in Miami on Tuesday (US time).

He was apparently in the US city ahead of Sabalenka playing in the Miami Open, which began on Monday.

Local police believe the 42-year-old died of “apparent suicide” and that “no foul play is suspected”.

Two-time Australian Open champion Sabalenka has a house in the American city, and was seen training just hours after news of Kolstov’s death broke. On Wednesday, she made her first public comments – revealing a surprise detail.

“Konstantin’s death is an unthinkable tragedy,” the 25-year-old posted on Instagram.

“While we were no longer together, my heart is broken.

“Please respect my privacy and his family’s privacy during this difficult time.”

aryna sabalenka

Sabalenka’s message on her Instagram.

Sabalenka and Kolstov were first linked together in 2021.

She had frequently referenced Koltsov on social media in pictures and messages, including a touching video tribute for his birthday almost a year ago. There had been no references to him in recent weeks.

Belarusian-born Sabalenka will still play in the Miami Open, with her first match against her close friend Paula Badosa on Saturday. But she will not be available for press conferences or media throughout the tournament, according to The Tennis Channel.

Koltsov represented Belarus at the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympics and was also a coach of the national team.

National team coach Dmitry Baskov called Koltsov’s death “an irreparable loss.”

“Konstantin was one of the undisputable leaders of our team, a talented progressive coach, a bright player,” he said.

“He was an example of sturdiness, hard work, dedication and an idol for many Belarusian boys and his colleagues. It’s hard and unfair when such people leave so early.”

A statement on Salavat Yulaev Ufa’s website said Koltsov “forever wrote himself into the history of our club. Koltsov won the Russian Championship and the Gagarin Cup as part of Salavat Yulaev and did a great job on the team’s coaching staff.”

It is the second tragedy to hit the 25-year-old Belarusian, whose father Sergey, also a former ice hockey player, died in 2019 at the age of 43.

Sabalenka’s victory at the Australian Open in January fulfilled the dream she shared with her father of winning two slam titles by the age of 25.

“It was really important. Of course he’s my biggest motivation. He’s been everything for me,” she said in Melbourne at the time.

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-with AAP

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