Tennis rallies around Sabalenka at Miami Open after boyfriend's death

World number two Aryna Sabalenka remains in the Miami Open despite the death of her boyfriend. (CLIVE BRUNSKILL)
World number two Aryna Sabalenka remains in the Miami Open despite the death of her boyfriend. (CLIVE BRUNSKILL)

World number two Aryna Sabalenka intends to play in the Miami Open this week, organisers said Tuesday, as fellow players offered their support following the death of her boyfriend in an apparent suicide.

Sabalenka's partner, Belarusian former NHL ice hockey player Konstantin Koltsov, 42, died late Monday after jumping from the balcony of a room in an upmarket resort in Miami, police said.

Two-time Grand Slam winner Sabalenka practiced at the Miami Open's Hard Rock Stadium venue early on Tuesday afternoon as organisers said she had not asked to withdraw and was "intending to play."

The 25-year-old from Minsk, who won the Australian Open in 2023 and retained her Melbourne title earlier this year, is due to face Spain's Paula Badosa in the second round.

Badosa, a close-friend of Sabalenka's, said the match would be "uncomfortable".

"Yesterday I spoke with her a lot of time. This morning the same. So I know what she's going through," she told a press conference.

"I know the entire situation, what is happening. 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. It's a very tough situation," she added.

"At the same point playing against her, it's also uncomfortable."

Miami-Dade police spokesman Argemis Colome said in an email that on Monday at 12:39 a.m. (0439 GMT), police "were dispatched to the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, in reference to a male that jumped from a balcony.

"The Miami-Dade Police Department, Homicide Bureau, responded and has taken over the investigation of the apparent suicide of Mr. Konstantin Koltsov. No foul play is suspected."

Bal Harbour is a high-end district in the northern part of Miami Beach, known for a luxury shopping mall and plush accommodations.

- 'Terrible situation' -

Sabalenka frequently trains out of Miami and keeps a residence in the city.

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki said the situation was "heartbreaking."

"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," she said.

American Jessica Pegula said that the players were aware of the tragic news and offering support to Sabalenka.

"I think all of us all heard about it last night and then obviously there's more news about it this morning, which was just really horrible," she told reporters.

"All you can do is really offer support for however she wants to deal with it. You never know how someone is going to take it or how they want to grieve and everyone's so different," she said.

Koltsov's death had earlier been confirmed by the Belarus hockey federation.

"We are in mourning," the federation said on its website.

Koltsov's playing career included a stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL, where he made 144 appearances between 2003 and 2006.

"The Penguins extend their deepest condolences to the family and friends of former Penguins forward, Konstantin Koltsov," the team said in a statement.

He also played for Belarus at two Winter Olympic Games -- Salt Lake City in 2002 and Vancouver in 2010 -- as well as nine world championships.

He had three children with his wife Julia, whom he divorced in 2020 before he began a relationship with Sabalenka.