WATCH: Sabalenka had reached the semifinals in two of her last three hard-court tournaments, including the US Open.


Aryna Sabalenka hosted an energetic—if understandably downbeat—Q&A session on Tuesday, checking in with fans for the first time since testing positive for COVID-19 and having to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open.

“I’m not looking beautiful while I’m sick,” she said in response to one comment, then added in reference to the filter she’d added, “This is a mask.”

Sabalenka last played at the US Open, where she reached her second straight Grand Slam semifinal, and was slated to be the top seed in Indian Wells before COVID-19 sent her into hotel quarantine without her team, who left Palm Springs following her withdrawal. Answering questions in both English and Russian, she admitted to feeling mild symptoms—describing a telltale inability to taste or smell—but was grateful for an open window that could provide fresh air.

“It’s so beautiful outside!” she exclaims about halfway through the 30-minute broadcast. “I want to play, I want to play tournaments. I’m tired of practicing or doing nothing. I need to go outside and play.

“Why couldn’t they just isolate me from other players and let me play? I could keep my distance and stay away from everyone,” she muses before adding, “but I guess it wouldn’t work well because we’d still be touching the same balls, and that could be dangerous.”

The world No. 2 was previously unvaccinated and had been publicly reticent to take a COVID-19 vaccine in its initial roll-out, but noted she may attempt to get vaccinated at the end of the season.

Sabalenka remains optimistic about her chances to make her WTA Finals debut in Guadalajara, where she qualified second behind world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, but noted she would miss the Billie Jean King Cup Finals later this year.

“Everything started there because I got to play my first big matches there and understand my level. It was a huge moment for me, in my career. Next year, for sure I’ll play.”

Asked if any of her fellow players had been in touch since her diagnosis, Sabalenka gave surging Tunisian star Ons Jabeur a shoutout.

“She was the first to text me to say, ‘Stay safe, girl!’”

Sabalenka said she will likely be in quarantine until October 11.