Wednesday night’s “Tennis Plays for Peace” exhibition at the US Open saw the tennis world and New York City band together to help the Grand Slam surpass $1.2 million raised for humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine.
The keynote event of this year’s US Open Fan Week featured a lot of tennis stars, including 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.
Ukraine was strongly represented on court inside Louis Armstrong Stadium, by players Dayana Yastremska, Katarina Zavatska and Daria Snigur and former players Sergiy Stakhovsky and Olga Savchuk.
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus was also due to play the exhibition, but the USTA made a last-minute decision to remove her from the event, “given the sensitivities to Ukrainian players, and the ongoing conflict.” Ukrainians Marta Kostyuk and Lesia Tsurenko were especially against the Belarusian’s participation. The world No.72 Kostyuk said: “When Lesia Tsurenko 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 [we] will not participate in this.”
Twelve-year-old Ustyn Chornyy, from the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York, sang the Ukrainian national anthem, and representatives from Manhattan traditional Ukrainian restaurant “Veselka” also made a special appearance and got to hit with the players. The Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York will also perform during the Opening Night Ceremonies on August 29.
All the ticket revenue from “Tennis Plays for Peace” was donated to GlobalGiving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund, which supports humanitarian assistance in impacted communities in Ukraine and surrounding regions where Ukrainian refugees have fled. To learn more or to donate, visit TennisPlaysforPeace.com.