Gauff, Nadal play in US Open exhibition to benefit Ukraine


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NEW YORK — Coco Gauff’s sneakers carried the message “Play for Peace” as she joined Rafael Nadal, Iga Swiatek and different tennis stars in a pre-U.S. Open exhibition occasion Wednesday night time that helped generate greater than $1 million for humanitarian help in Ukraine.

“You guys all know me: I like to speak out when it’s right,” Gauff mentioned after teaming with former participant John McEnroe in a blended doubles match in opposition to Nadal and Swiatek. “I’m glad that I was able to be a part of this.”

The U.S. Tennis Association mentioned 100% of proceeds from gross sales of tickets to its “Tennis Plays for Peace Exhibition” in Louis Armstrong Stadium went to a world nonprofit group. Other gamers taking part included Ukrainian execs Dayana Yastremska and Katarina Zavatska, 2021 U.S. Open finalist Leylah Fernandez, Carlos Alcarez, Maria Sakkari, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jessica Pegula.

“It really means a lot to see so many people supporting Ukraine,” Zavatska informed the group, noting that it was her nation’s Independence Day. “I really hope and I wish that next year we will celerbate this day in freedom.”

Tournament director Stacey Allaster mentioned $1.2 million was raised as a part of the USTA’s effort to generate not less than $2 million to benefit Ukraine by the top of the U.S. Open, which begins Monday.

“The daily fighting goes on. … So every dollar that Ukraine can get is a life saved, a child fed,” mentioned Sergiy Stakhovsky, a former professional participant from Ukraine.

Earlier in the day, two-time main champion and former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka was dropped from the exhibition. Azarenka is from Belarus, which helped Russia launch its invasion of Ukraine in February. At least one Ukrainian tennis participant, Marta Kostyuk, questioned having a Belarusian participant take part Wednesday night time.

The USTA issued an announcement 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 gamers representing Russia or Belarus had been banned from coming into Wimbledon — which was held in June and July — due to the invasion of Ukraine. The USTA introduced in June that it will enable these athletes to compete in the U.S. Open.

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

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