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Belarusian Victoria Azarenka removed from Ukraine relief tennis match

The United States Tennis Association removed Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenka from Wednesday night’s “Tennis Plays for Peace” exhibition at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Queens.

“In the last 24 hours, after careful consideration and dialogue with all parties involved, Victoria Azarenka will not be participating in our “Tennis Plays for Peace” Exhibition this evening,” the USTA said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

“Vika is a strong player leader and we appreciate her willingness to participate. Given the sensitivities to Ukrainian players, and the on-going conflict, we believe this is the right course of action for us.”

Organizers wore yellow and blue ribbons on their chests in support of Ukraine.
Fans brought Ukrainian flags and donned blue and yellow for the event.
Overall, the US Open raised $1.2 million for those in need in Ukraine.
The proceeds from the event went to fund humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.

Azarenka posted a photo on Twitter, appearing to land in New York City early Wednesday afternoon ahead of the exhibition.

The exhibition took place on Ukrainian Independence Day and featured current and former stars such as Rafael Nadal, Coco Gauff, Iga Swiatek and John McEnroe.

Ukrainian players have long shown their disapproval with Russian and Belarusian players being able to participate in tournaments and events since the war began in February 2022.

Marta Kostyuk, who was born in Kyiv, told the Ukrainian news outlet BTU she turned down an invitation to participate in the event after learning Azarenka, a two-time Grand Slam champion, would be on the court as well.

“Of course, I received an invitation,” Kostyuk said. “I think all our players got them. When [fellow Ukrainian player] Lesia Tsurenko and I found out — I’m only talking about us now, because we didn’t ask anyone — so when we found out that there would be representatives of Russia or Belarus at this event … I immediately said that [we] will not participate in this.”

“Tennis Plays for Peace” raised $1.2 million in humanitarian aid to support those impacted by the war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian players brought up Azarenka's Belarusian nationality as the reason why she should not be allowed to participate.
Victoria Azarenka was told that she would not be playing in the USTA’s “Tennis Plays for Peace” exhibition.
Corbis via Getty Images

Current Ukrainian players Dayana Yastremska, Katarina Zavatska and Daria Snigur took to the court for the exhibition, as well as former players Sergiy Stakhovsky and Olga Savchuk. It is unknown how many Ukrainian tennis stars besides Kostyuk and Tsurenko rejected invitations to participate.

The US Open main draw will be unveiled on Friday.

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