Belarus star Azarenka axed from US Open Ukraine benefit

By: AFP
Published: 09:02 PM, 24 Aug, 2022
Belarus star Azarenka axed from US Open Ukraine benefit
Caption: Former world number one Victoria Azarenka of Belarus was Wednesday axed from a planned US Open exhibition event aimed at raising money for war-torn Ukraine.
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Former world number one Victoria Azarenka of Belarus was Wednesday axed from a planned US Open exhibition event aimed at raising money for war-torn Ukraine, officials said.

Azarenka was to have joined the likes of Rafael Nadal, Coco Gauff, John McEnroe, Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Swiatek at the event organised to coincide with Ukraine's Independence Day celebrations.

However, a number of Ukraine players objected to the presence of two-time major winner Azarenka.

Belarus is a close ally of Russia and has allowed Moscow to use its territory to launch attacks into Ukraine.

"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," said the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in a statement.

"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."

Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk, ranked 70 in the world, claimed recently that she turned down the chance to play in Wednesday's event in protest at the presence of Azarenka.

"When we found out that there would be representatives of Russia or Belarus at this event, I immediately said that I will not participate in this," the 20-year-old told reporters.

Despite having been banned from Wimbledon after the invasion of Ukraine, players from Russia and Belarus have been allowed to take part in the US Open which starts on Monday.

However, they are barred from competing under the name or flag of their countries.

Organisers of the US Open hope that Wednesday's exhibition at Flushing Meadows as well as a series of other events over the two-week Grand Slam will raise around $2 million for Ukraine relief.

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.