Victoria Azarenka was ordered to take off a shirt she was wearing in a bizarre scene ahead of her Australian Open semi-final loss on Thursday night.
After a thrilling first set, reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina clinched the tiebreaker and won the match 7-6, 6-3.
Before the match, Azarenka walked into the Rod Laver Arena wearing a Paris Saint-Germain soccer jersey, but referee Alison Hughes quickly removed it.
The 33-year-old had worn the Paris Saint-Germain shirt on the field before many of her matches at Melbourne Park, explaining that she wears it because it is the club that her son Leo supports and wants to play for one day.
Azarenka had also worn the jersey during press conferences, but the referee told her to take it off and warm up in the uniform she would be playing in.
The two-time Australian Open champion stuck to the guidance and said she thought it was a sponsorship issue.
“They asked me to take it off twice because I was wearing a different shirt,” Azarenka said in her post-match press conference. “I think it’s the sponsorship issue. I think logos are too big… I know I’m not allowed to play in that. I knew that kind of thing.
“But I can still step on the court in what I want to step on the court. I do it for my own reasons. My son wore a white jersey today for his practice, and I tried to wear a white jersey for my match but I couldn’t. So that’s fine.”
Azarenka was vying to become the fourth woman to win a Grand Slam tournament after becoming a mother but fell short of the rare feat.
Saturday’s final will witness Rikabena’s confrontation with Arina Sabalenka, after the Belarusian player defeated Poland’s Magda Linette 7-6, 6-2 in the other semi-final.
Azarenka wasn’t in the mood for reporters after her losing streak.
The veteran was asked a thorny question in her post-match press conference about Russian nationalists staging a demonstration in support of President Vladimir Putin outside Rod Laver Arena.
On Thursday, Novak Djokovic’s father, Sardan, appeared He posed for a photo with group members, including a man wearing a T-shirt with a pro-war “Z” symbol on it. The demonstration, which followed Djokovic’s win over Andrey Rublev on Wednesday night, was a crucial talking point, but Azarenka, who plays under a neutral flag as a Belarusian, cleared the strings of questions.
Azarenka Exchange with one reporter She became listless as she said her response would likely be “spinning”.
“You ask me about things that someone might say are under my control,” she said, “but I don’t believe it.” “I don’t know what you want me to answer. If it’s a provocative question, then you can write the story however you like.”
She said the off-field scandal had nothing to do with the players at the tournament.
“Whatever answer I will now give you,” she said, “it will be turned into whatever way you want it to be turned.” “So does that bother me? What bothers me is that there are real things going on in the world.”