Belarus’s Victoria Azarenka and Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk are set for a politically-charged US Open grudge match after advancing to a second round showdown on Tuesday.
Former World No. 1 Azarenka defeated Ashlyn Krueger of the United States in three sets while Kostyuk advanced to the second round with a straight sets win over Egypt’s Mayar Sherif. The results mean Azarenka and Kostyuk will face off against each other on Thursday against the backdrop of simmering recent player tensions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Only last week, Azarenka was axed from an exhibition event on the eve of the US Open aimed at raising money for Ukraine.
Azarenka was due to have joined a star-studded field for the event, which was timed to coincide with Ukraine’s Independence Day celebrations. Kostyuk was one of a number of Ukraine players who spoke out about Azarenka’s participation. Organisers subsequently jettisoned Azarenka from the event.
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Belarus is a close ally of Russia and has allowed Moscow to use its territory to launch attacks into Ukraine.
Kostyuk said she turned down the chance to play in last week’s event in protest at the presence of Azarenka.
“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,” the 20-year-old said.
Despite having been banned from Wimbledon after the invasion of Ukraine, players from Russia and Belarus have been allowed to take part in the US Open. However, they are barred from competing under the name or flag of their countries.
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