Boyfriend of Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka dies, aged 42

Birthday wishes for boyfriend Konstantin Koltsov

Source: Instagram/Aryna Sabalenka

World tennis No.2 Aryna Sabalenka’s boyfriend Konstantin Koltsov has died at the age of 42.

Koltsov, a former ice hockey player who competed in the NHL for the Pittsburgh Penguins, had been a regular presence supporting Sabalenka at tournaments.

The tennis champ frequently referenced Koltsov on social media in pictures and messages, including a video uploaded to Instagram for his birthday nearly a year ago.

Happy birthday my love,” Sabalenka captioned the video, accompanied by a string of heart emojis.

“You are my dearest person, my best friend and my strongest support. Peace be with you, strength, patience and health. I hope we will have everything we planned. I love you.”

The news was announced by Russia ice hockey team Salavat Yulaev Ufa, where Koltsov had been assistant coach.

His death was confirmed by Miami police. Koltsov was in the US city ahead of Sabalenka playing in the Miami Open.

Police said the death was an apparent suicide. No foul play was suspected.

Pictures showed tributes to Koltsov outside Ufa Arena laid by fans of Salavat Yulaev.

A statement on the club’s website read: “It is with deep sorrow that we inform you that Salavat Yulaev coach Konstantin Koltsov has passed away. 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. 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.

“The hockey club Salavat Yulaev expresses its condolences to the family and friends of Konstantin Evgenievich Koltsov.”

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

Another 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 the federation’s website said: “The Belarusian Hockey Federation expresses its deepest condolences to the family, friends and everyone who knew and worked with Konstantin Evgenievich.”

Sabalenka, who won her second grand slam title at the Australian Open in January, is due to play her first match at the Miami Open later this week, although her participation must now be in severe doubt.

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

Sabalenka’s victory in Melbourne 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 afterwards.

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-with AAP
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