The United States opens an upcoming party for Russian and Belarusian tennis stars

earlier in the summer, Banned from Wimbledon After the invasion of Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian tennis stars spent time with their families or trained away from the tennis spotlight. Arina Sabalenka, who works out in Miami, said she turns off the TV whenever Wimbledon is being broadcast.

But the Grand Slam tennis door reopened last week in New York, and they seized the opportunity.

Karen Khachanov, a bearded Russian extrovert who plays hard and forehand, has competed in the men’s singles semi-finals at the US Open after defeating Nick Kyrgios Late at night five groups.

Sabalenka, a strong Belarusian who has struggled a lot this season, returned to the women’s singles semi-finals with her official 6-1, 7-6 (4) victory over Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday and plays and shoots well enough to win it. First Grand Slam singles title.

One of those watching from the stands at Pliskova’s box was Olga Savchuk, a former Ukrainian tennis star, and still opposes allowing Russians and Belarusians to play in this or any other tournament.

“I try not to think about it anymore when I watch because it really frustrates me and it makes me so emotional,” Savchuk said after Sabalenka’s win. “I realize that it’s hard to continue living every day thinking about this constantly. So, I just realize that I can’t change decisions we haven’t made that we can’t control.”

Savchuk, now retired, was the captain of the Ukrainian team that lost to the United States in the Billie Jean King King Cup playoffs in Asheville, North Carolina, in April. During that competitionSavchuk and the Ukrainian players expressed gratitude for the support they are receiving from the public, but said one of their biggest fears was that the war, which began in February, would become normal and global interest would fade.

Savchuk, 34, believes the fear has come true, although she appreciates the efforts of the US Open Raising funds to support Ukraine By holding a successful exhibition before the tournament.

“I feel, in general, that people are tired of it now, and they’re tired of hearing it,” she said of the war. “Things are slowly changing that way, and so it looks like I have to follow through. And that is horrible, because for us, we just can’t go through with it. Nothing has changed for us. It’s just worse. More time, more destruction, more losses.” .

Controversial Wimbledon banIt is the first of its kind in a major tennis tournament in the modern era, and has come under great pressure from the British government, whose then Prime Minister was Boris Johnson.

The British leadership wanted to avoid the use of Wimbledon as propaganda by Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.

The Ukrainian players expressed their deep appreciation for the ban and the support.

“We’ve all written to the Wimbledon organization and the tournament director as well, and I’ve spoken to him personally,” Savchuk said.

But the ban It didn’t quite work as planned. Turns out the surprise women’s singles champion was so Elena Rybakinaa Russian-born player who agreed to represent Kazakhstan due to his financial support but stayed for a long time in Moscow.

Shamil Tarbyshev, long-time president of the Russian Tennis Federation, made a ceremonial statement after her victory.

Although Russia and Belarus were banned from team tennis competitions such as the Davis Cup and King’s Cup after the invasion, players were allowed to continue participating as individuals in other tournaments without an official mention of their nationality. The US Open does not announce their nationalities during in-field presentations, and ESPN does not display their national flags in their coverage.

Although both men’s and women’s tours are condemned Invasion of Ukrainevehemently opposed the Wimbledon ban, arguing that individuals should not be prevented from competing on the basis of their nationality or government decisions beyond their control.

Concerned that Wimbledon’s move could set a precedent for future bans based on policy, the Tours made an unprecedented decision. Wimbledon stripped of ranking points, by turning one of the most famous sporting events into an exhibition and contributing to Rybakina’s ranking at only 25th at the US Open. (I lost in the first round on an outdoor court.)

After lengthy deliberations, the Board of Directors of the US Tennis Association, which administers the US Open, He chose not to follow Wimbledon’s lead Russians and Belarusians were allowed to compete.

Four of them reached the round of 16 in the men’s singles and women’s singles, and while Khachanov and Sabalenka remained in contention, there were no Ukrainian players left.

It’s an embarrassing scenario, but Le Cher, in his first year as USTA CEO and CEO, asserted Wednesday that the USTA “has continued to condemn the unjust invasion of Ukraine by Russia.” He said the US Open had raised $2 million in humanitarian aid to help Ukraine. Part of that came from the “Tennis for Peace” exhibition held on August 24 at Arthur Ashe Stadium which featured Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal and women’s No. 1, Iga Swietic from Poland.

But even that initiative created tension. Ukrainian players, including Marta Kostyuk, have opposed the plan to include Belarusian star Victoria Azarenka, asserting that Azarenka was not supportive behind the scenes and that as an influential member of the WTA player council he played a role in Wimbledon’s stripping of the tournament. points.

Azarenka withdrew from the show and, having defeated Kostyuk in the second round, Kostyuk refused to shake hands With her in the network, tapping the speculators instead.

Azarenka, the former top seed who is one of the biggest international stars in Belarus, said after that match that she reached out to Ukrainian players she knows personally and offered behind-the-scenes help since the invasion but did not speak to the 20-year-old Kostyuk.

“I don’t feel that forcing myself to talk to someone who might not want to talk to me for various reasons is the right approach,” she said. “But I offered.”

Some Russian players spoke out, including Daria Kasatkina, who was bold enough to actually call the conflict a “war” and called it a “complete nightmare.” Much respect to her,” said Savchuk, who said she has since sent Katsatkina a letter of appreciation.

like Azarenka, Sabalenka met in the past with Alexander Lukashenkothe Belarusian president who cracked down on the protest and was one of Putin’s strongest allies.

But Sabalenka avoided public comment on the war while acknowledging that the situation made it difficult to do so.

“It’s tough, and there’s a lot of pressure,” she said Wednesday. “I only think this way that I’m just an athlete, and I have nothing to do with politics.”

She said she took advantage of the enforced break during Wimbledon to work on improving her serve. But Sabalenka, who reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2021, said it wasn’t easy to watch the tournament from afar.

“Tough time,” she said. “Especially when I was working out in the gym, and there was Wimbledon playing on the TV. I would always turn it off because I couldn’t watch it.”

Savchuk has struggled to watch TV for various reasons in the past six months. Now based in London and the Bahamas, she was born and raised in Donetsk in the disputed Donbass region and still has a family in Ukraine.

“I haven’t seen my family,” she said, “until the war is over, I don’t want to go there, I miss them so much and more and more.”

She said she felt increasingly helpless and frustrated.

“It kills you that you can’t change it,” she said. “I feel like we still get a lot of help around the world with money and donations, but I feel in people’s minds after the news, that interest has gone down. I even look at Instagram whenever I post something about the war, people almost don’t look at it.”

She said it hurt to see Russian and Belarusian players competing in the US Open.

“I was very disappointed that they were allowed to play,” she said. “But what kills me the most is seeing Russians continue to live their happy lives and post about it.”

David Waldstein Contribute to the preparation of reports.

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