Belarus’ Azarenka dropped from Ukraine exhibition at US Open

Sports

NEW YORK (AP) — Two-time major champion and former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka was dropped Wednesday from a pre-U.S. Open exhibition event raising money for humanitarian assistance in Ukraine.

Azarenka is from Belarus, which helped Russia launch its invasion of Ukraine in February. At least one Ukrainian tennis player, Marta Kostyuk, questioned having a Belarusian player participate in the U.S. Tennis Association’s “Tennis Plays for Peace Exhibition,” scheduled for Wednesday night in Louis Armstrong Stadium at Flushing Meadows.

The USTA issued a statement Wednesday, saying: “In the last 24 hours, after careful consideration and dialogue with all parties involved, Victoria Azarenka will not be participating … this evening. Vika is a strong player leader and we appreciate her willingness to participate. Given the sensitivities to Ukrainian players, and the ongoing conflict, we believe this is the right course of action for us.”

Azarenka and all players representing Russia or Belarus were banned from entering Wimbledon — which was held in June and July — because of the invasion of Ukraine. The USTA announced in June that it would allow those athletes to compete in the U.S. Open.

Azarenka won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, and was the runner-up at the U.S. Open in 2012, 2013 and 2020.

Rafael Nadal, Coco Gauff, Carlos Alcarez, Iga Swiatek and Leylah Fernandez were among the other players set to participate in Wednesday’s event, with 100% of proceeds from sales of $25 and $50 tickets going to an international nonprofit organization.

It is part of the USTA’s effort to raise at least $2 million to benefit Ukraine by the end of the U.S. Open, which starts Monday.

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