Belarus star Azarenka barred from US Open Ukraine benefits

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Victoria Azarenka. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka of Belarus was expelled on Wednesday from a planned exhibition at the US Open aimed at raising funds for war-torn Ukraine, officials said.

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

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

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

“For the past 24 hours, after careful consideration and dialogue with all parties involved, Victoria Azarenka will not be participating in our ‘Tennis Plays for Peace’ exhibit tonight,” said the United States Tennis Association (USTA ) in a press release.

“Vika is a solid leader and we appreciate her willingness to participate.

“Given the sensitivities of Ukrainian players and the ongoing conflict, we believe this is the right course of action for us.”

Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, ranked 70th in the world, recently claimed that she refused to participate in Wednesday’s event in protest at Azarenka’s attendance.

“When we learned that there would be representatives from Russia or Belarus at this event, I immediately said that I would not participate,” the 20-year-old told reporters.

Despite being banned from Wimbledon after the Ukraine invasion, players from Russia and Belarus have been allowed to participate in the US Open which begins on Monday.

However, they are prohibited from competing under the name or flag of their country.

US Open organizers are hoping Wednesday’s exhibition at Flushing Meadows along with a series of other events over the two-week Grand Slam will raise around $2 million in aid for Ukraine .

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