As a show of support for Ukraine in light of the ongoing war, the 2022 US Open announced earlier today that Belarusian player Victoria Azarenka would be excluded from their ‘Tennis Plays for Peace Exhibition’ exhibition event held later tonight.
While Azarenka wanted to participate in the event and even expressed her support for Ukraine, she was asked to step aside, and tennis fans are fuming.
As previously reported, several Ukrainian players, including Marta Kostyuk, opposed Azarenka’s inclusion in the charity event due to her home nation Belarus’ support of Russia. The United States Tennis Association (USTA), organizers of the US Open, announced the exclusion of two-time Grand Slam champion from the ‘Tennis Plays for Peace Exhibition’ event on the day of the event.
In a statement, the USTA said:
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.
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
In reaction to the news, many fans have taken to social media to express their dissent with the decision. They empathized with Victoria Azarenka for not being able to openly show her support for Ukraine.
Meanwhile, some fans complained that Ukrainian players should have been consulted before announcing Azarenka as a participant in the first place.
One fan tweeted:
So do they want Russian and Belarussian players’ support or not? make up your damn mind!
so do they want russian and belarussian players’ support or not? make up your damn mind https://t.co/2KxYMaZzQ5
— Bram💅🏻 | (@kvitosaka) August 24, 2022
Point 1: USTA should’ve asked player’s in advance about their opinion of Vika playing the exho before admitting her
Point 2: USTA should let a Belarusian who wants to support UKRAINE openly. People are asking for support and now you aren’t letting them support? Pathetic. https://t.co/C6wT7JBbA1
— Bence (@hBencee) August 24, 2022
Another fan’s tweet read:
I’m speechless. Yes, what Russia is doing is far worse than anything that could ever happen on a tennis court. I just don’t understand how rejecting the support of someone you once called a colleague and a friend, just bc of where they were born, could ever be useful to the cause.
I’m speechless. Yes, what Russia is doing is far worse than anything that could ever happen on a tennis court. I just don’t understand how rejecting the support of someone you once called a colleague and a friend, just bc of where they were born, could ever be useful to the cause https://t.co/wNY9gaWPLn
— Ila 🌼 (@Uaremydream_) August 24, 2022
Here are a few of many more reactions from tennis fans regarding Victoria Azarenka’s exclusion from the exhibition event at the US Open:
Peace exhibition and still being kicked out due to nationality. Stop crying about lack of support because u didn’t even give them a chance to show their support. 🤷♀️ https://t.co/KHiXwKJ6Xq
— 🐙🥨Medvedev’s interior designer🏆🐟 (@danolebesties12) August 24, 2022
So azarenka is banned from this event for preventing peace by hitting a ball with a racket 🙃 Stop bullying people that have nothing to do with this horrendous war. https://t.co/eXmTfaQTHS
— I, Samet (@kocaksamm) August 24, 2022
The USTA is at fault here. They should have asked Ukranian players if they were comfortable playing the exhibition with a Belarussian/Russian player BEFORE issuing the invitation to Vika. They didn’t and this is the result.
— Gaby S. (@gabyserrar) August 24, 2022
Its okay if its an exhibition match FOR Ukraine No Russian or Belarusian deserves a place more than a Ukranian player… https://t.co/C5NBudj3Td
— Sai (@Sai_sankar_) August 24, 2022
I fail to understand what these players really want? Like Vika literally agreed to play an exhibition for Ukraine and that hurt your sentiments? If she had refused in the first place, the same people would be complaining non-stop that “it’s the least one can do” pick a side ffs https://t.co/f5hG0KOIRz
— A (@_fazahsn_) August 24, 2022
she’s more high profile than any of the ukrainian players participating. she’s going against her own country trying to raise more money for them.
they claim to embrace independence & freedom, yet there seems to be a serious disregard of individuality and intention. https://t.co/j4Pvb9Vsoz
— hika✨ (@hikar1_y) August 24, 2022
While Azarenka misses out, Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff, Rafael Nadal, and Carlos Alcaraz, among others, are all set to participate in the ‘Tennis Plays for Peace Exhibition’ event.
The next time we see World No. 26 Victoria Azarenka will be in the main draw of the 2022 US Open.