On Wednesday, the US Open held its ‘Tennis Plays for Peace’ event for Ukraine relief ahead of the start of the year’s final grand slam event, raising $1.2 million, according to the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
Participating in the event held in New York were Rafael Nadal, Iga Swiatek, John McEnroe, Coco Gauff, Carlos Alcaraz, Leylah Fernandez, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jessica Pegula, Matteo Berrettini, Maria Sakkari, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul, Sebastian Korda and Ben Shelton.
Nadal and Swiatek took on McEnroe and Gauff in one of the highlights of the evening.
Women’s world No. 1 Swiatek said: “For me, especially because Ukraine is right next to my country and because we as Poles are really united and helping, and I want to use every opportunity to show people that we all can be united.”
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US star Coco Gauff added: “For me to speak out is something that I always cherish. I always said you can change the world with your racket.
“So being here today on Armstrong and playing for such an amazing cause is something that I won’t take for granted, and I’m grateful to do it amongst legends of the sport.”
Ukrainian players Dayana Yastremska, Katarina Zavatska and Daria Snigur – as well as former players Sergiy Stakhovsky and Olga Savchuk – were also at the Louis Armstrong Stadium, while 12-year-old Ustyn Chornyy, from the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York, sang the Ukrainian national anthem.
The USTA said that all ticket revenue from the event went to the GlobalGiving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund, which supports humanitarian assistance in impacted communities in Ukraine and surrounding regions where Ukrainian refugees have fled.
Several hours ahead of the event, the USTA announced that Victoria Azarenka of Belarus would not participate, saying: “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.
“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.”
The event comes after the Ukraine Ministry of Youth and Sports announced in a statement on Tuesday that 133 Ukrainian athletes and coaches have died to date in the six months of the Russian invasion of the country.