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Aryna Sabalenka asks for privacy as she grieves death of former partner during Miami Open

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - MARCH 20: Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus practices during day 5 of the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium on March 20, 2024 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
Aryna Sabalenka practiced in all black during day 5 of the Miami Open on Wednesday. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images) (Megan Briggs via Getty Images)

Belarusian tennis star Aryna Sabalenka took to social media Wednesday to address the death of Konstantin Koltsov, her former partner.

Koltsov, who played three seasons in the NHL, died Monday in Miami in what was ruled an apparent suicide with no suspected foul play by police. He was 42.

In addition to his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the retired ice hockey player represented Belarus at the 2002 and 2010 Olympics. In his retirement, Koltsov had been working as an assistant coach for Russian club Salavat Yulaev Ufa and the Belarus men's national team. He had three children from a previous relationship.

"Konstantin's death is an unthinkable tragedy, and while we were no longer together, my heart is broken," Sabalenka wrote in an Instagram Story. "Please respect my privacy and his family's privacy during this difficult time."

She and Koltsov entered a relationship in 2021. Her statement Wednesday was the first public indication that they'd broken up.

Sabalenka, world No. 2, is still competing in the Miami Open but she won't be addressing the media at any point, according to a report from the Tennis Channel's Brett Haber and Martina Navratilova.

The two-time Australian Open champion, who had a first-round bye in the tournament due to her seeding, is slated to compete against Spain’s Paula Badosa on Thursday. Sabalenka was seen practicing in all black Tuesday and Wednesday.

"She's one of my best friends," Badosa said Tuesday when asked about Sabalenka. “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. At the same point, playing against her, it’s also uncomfortable.”

Badosa, fresh off of defeating Simona Halep, added that she promised not to say much about Sabalenka's situation.

"She’s a strong woman. I think she will get the power from somewhere. I hope it’s going to be a battle, a good match," she said.

Multiple figures in the tennis community have offered their condolences. Caroline Wozniacki, former world No. 1 in 2011, fought tears as she spoke about Sabalenka.

“I can’t even imagine what she’s going through. I’m also tearing up. It’s such a terrible situation. It’s so hard," the Danish player said. "I reached out to her and I told her that I was here if she needed anything."