Miami | Sabalenka set to play despite shock of partner’s death by suicide

The tragedy surrounding Aryna Sabalenka’s boyfriend, Konstantin Koltsov, on Monday, continues to dominate the news at the Miami Open, with Miami-Dade Police Department issuing a statement on Tuesday saying that this was an ‘apparent suicide’ and ‘no foul play is suspected’, sending shock waves through the tennis world.

To see her go through that, it's heartbreaking. I can't even imagine what she's going through right now. Everyone grieves in a different way. She was walking past today. I was giving her her space. I let her know that if she ever needs anything, I'm here, we’re here for her. Caroline Wozniacki

Due to a lack of detail, Paula Badosa’s press conference drew considerable attention but the Spaniard, who is Sabalenka’s her best friend and defeated Simona Halep in 3 sets earlier, was not prepared to break ranks, explaining that she had promised not to speak to the press about what happened.

Badosa added that she had spoken to Sabalenka twice at length over the last 2 days.

“I know the entire situation,” she said. “That, for me, is a little bit shocking also to go through that because, at the end, she’s my best friend, and I don’t want her to suffer.”

By the luck of the draw, Badosa is due to play Sabalenka in the 2nd-round, the Belarusian World No 2 seemingly intent to play the WTA 1000 tournament this week.

“It’s a very tough situation,” Badosa added. “At the same point playing against her, it’s also uncomfortable.”

Koltsov was a former ice hockey player, who represented Belarus at the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympics, and spent three years in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The couple had been together since 2021, Koltsov having divorced his wife in 2020. He has 3 children from the previous relationship, named Daniel, Alexander and Stefan.

Sabalenka wrote on Instagram on his birthday last year: “I love you @koltsov2021. Happy birthday my love. 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.”

Koltsov supported Sabalenka in Melbourne and watched her lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup for the second year in a row.

According to Miami police Konstantin Koltsov jumped off a hotel balcony in an apparent suicide on Monday


It was first reported that a detached blood clot was the cause of Koltsov’s death at the age of 42, but in the statement made by Miami-Dade Police Department detective, Argemis ‘AC’ Colome, it was thought to have been the result of suicide.

“According to investigators on Monday, March 18, 2024, at approximately 12:39 am, Bal Harbour Police and Fire Rescue were dispatched to the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, 9703 Collins Avenue, in reference to a male that jumped from a balcony,” the statement read.

“The Miami-Dade Police Department, Homicide Bureau, responded and has taken over the investigation of the apparent suicide of Mr. Konstantin Koltsov (04/17/1981). No foul play is suspected.”

This is the second tragedy to beset Sabalenka, who lost her father, Sergey, also a former ice hockey player, in 2019 when he died suddenly of hepatitis at the age of 43.

The World No 2 described him as her ‘biggest motivation’ when she retained her Australian Open title in January, fulfilling a dream she shared with him to win 2 Grand Slam titles by the age of 25.

“He’s been everything for me,” she said in Australia. “But right now, like, I have my mom, my sister, who is here with me, and I feel like I have to think about them.

“I just feel that he’s always with me. I’m very thankful for everything he did for me, and, I think, if not him, I wouldn’t be here. Right now I’m playing for my mom and my sister and my grandmothers.

“I’m just trying to fight because my dad wanted me to be No 1,” she added at the time. “I’m doing it for him, so that’s what is helping me to be strong right now.”

Koltsov retired from playing professional ice hockey in 2016, and was the assistant coach with Russia Kontinental Hockey League side Salavat Yulaev Ufa.

A statement on the club’s website announcing his death described Koltsov as a ‘strong and cheerful person’ who was ‘loved and respected by players, colleagues and fans’.

The Pittsburgh Penguins also paid tribute, saying: “The Penguins extend their deepest condolences to the family and friends of former Penguins forward, Konstantin Koltsov.”

Ice hockey player Konstantin Koltsov, seen here in 2007, played for the Pittsburgh Penguins for 3 years

© Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Sabalenka frequently referenced Koltsov on social media in pictures and messages, and they played a prominent role together in the Netflix series Break Point.

Speaking at length, Sabalenka shared their experience of playing top-level sport, and the special support he gave her in her own sporting journey.

The tennis world has rallied in support of Sabalenka, encapsulated by Caroline Wozniacki, who told the media after winning her opening match against Clara Burel: “I can’t even imagine what she’s going through right now. I’m saying that. I’m also tearing up. It’s such a terrible situation. It’s so hard.

“I reached out to her and I told her that I was here if she needed anything. I love Aryna. I think she’s such a great person. She’s always so happy and out there.

“To see her go through that, it’s heartbreaking. I can’t even imagine what she’s going through right now.

“Everyone grieves in a different way. She was walking past today. I was giving her her space. I let her know that if she ever needs anything, I’m here, we’re here for her,” added Wozniacki in a heartfelt response.

On Tuesday, the Tennis Channel confirmed Sabalenka’s intention to play on, but she will not be speaking to the media before or after her matches.

Best of friends, Paula Badosa (L) and Aryna Sabalenka in happier times

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images



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