Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenka will no longer take part in the US Open Ukrainian charity match due to swift backlash over her participation.
This week, held on Ukraine's Independence Day, a 'Tennis Plays for Peace' exhibition event will take place before the US Open to help raise money for Ukraine.
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However, Azarenka's inclusion caused a stir.
Ukrainian tennis player Marta Kostyuk slammed US Open organisers for including Azarenka and claimed players hadn't been consulted about Belarusian representatives being included.
Belarus helped Russia launch its invasion of Ukraine back in February.
And only hours before the fundraiser, US Open officials announced Azarenka wouldn't take part in the New York charity event after consulting the player.
"In the last 24 hours, after careful consideration and dialogue with all parties involved, Victoria Azarenka will not be participating ... this evening," the statement read.
"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.”
Tennis world reacts to Victoria Azarenka exclusion
The tennis world had mixed reactions over the announcement.
Many felt Azarenka's initial inclusion was a big move from a Belarusian tennis player in support of Ukraine.
However, others claimed US Open officials should have handled the situation better and spoken to Azarenka prior to the incident.
Doubt Victoria Azarenka would turn up if she wasn't wanted. USTA could have surely just nudged her to pull out of the Ukraine event rather than giving her the boot.
Too many like to humiliate Russians and Belarussians who want to help, then complain they don't condemn the war. pic.twitter.com/wkXaPvY16K
— Sam Street (@samstreetwrites) August 24, 2022
Victoria Azarenka has been excluded from the exhibition for Ukraine, despite her willingness to participate. This has made in order to not hurt Ukrainian players' sensibility
I'm a bit sad for Vika. What do you think about this? pic.twitter.com/35FBpiBj98
— Mario Boccardi (@marioboc17) August 24, 2022
It's not about her. It's about Ukrainian Independence Day, 6 months of brutal war, and whatever the victims want, that's what they should get.
— Jasmine ✨ (@igababygoat) August 24, 2022
I am a little bit confused about Azarenka's exclusion from the Tennis Exhibition for Peace to support Ukraine.
They don't want to hurt Ukraine's players sensibility but she's one of the few players from RUS/BLR to publicly support Ukraine.
Why should she be inappropriate?
— Relevant Tennis | Stats & Info (@RelevantTennis) August 24, 2022
USTA announces that Azarenka, the Belarusian and former No. 1 who's on WTA Player Council, will not take part after all in tonight's play for peace exhibition to support Ukraine
There had been criticism from Ukrainian players, including Marta Kostyuk, of Azarenka's involvement pic.twitter.com/xo9SbQVTJt
— Christopher Clarey 🇺🇸 🇫🇷 🇪🇸 (@christophclarey) August 24, 2022
What a mess the USTA created here. Poor Vika. Damned if she does, damned if she doesn't.
— CM T (@cmt2160) August 24, 2022
Earlier this week, outspoken Ukrainian player Kostyuk let rip at Azarenka's inclusion at the event.
"When Lesia Tsurenko [of Ukraine] and I found out - I'm only talking about us now, because we didn't ask anyone - so 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," she told publication BTU.
Kostyuk said Ukrainians should have been consulted on whether they wanted either Russian or Belarusian players to participate, especially on such a special day for her nation.
Kostyuk questioned why Azarenka was even participating in the first place after not reaching to her.
"There was no open help from her in our direction," she added.
"She did not communicate with me, but I know that she communicated with [Ukraine’s] Serhiy Stakhovsky, with [France’s] Gaël Monfils in Madrid.
"There was no dialogue with me personally, although it cannot be said that I was invisible."
Azarenka has won the Australian Open twice, in 2012 and 2013.
She was unable to take part at Wimbledon, along with other tennis players from Belarus and Russia.
However, the US Open didn't follow Wimbledon's lead and will allow players from the aforementioned countries to participate.
Other stars such as Coco Gauff, Iga Swiatek and Rafa Nadal will take part in the charity event for Ukraine.
The US Open starts on August 29.
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