Several thousand spectators watched with bated breaths current leader of the WTA leader Iga Świątek cross rackets with WTA-winning former tennis player Agnieszka Radwańska in a friendly match organised in Kraków’s Tauron Arena in support of Ukraine.
The revenue from the match amounting to 420,000 EUR will be transferred to victims of the war in Ukraine.
Two-time winner of the Roland Garros Tournament Iga Świątek said that the idea of a charity event entitled “Iga Świątek and Friends for Ukraine” was born immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine. To recall, Ms Świątek is the most vocal tennis player supporting Ukraine.
“I wanted to say something to Ukraine, to stay strong, because the war is still there. Since I made my speech in Doha [after winning the tournament in February] it had started and I was hoping when I do the next tournament speech the situation will be better but I will still have hope," she said in April on the day of her victory in French Open.
In Kraków, Ms Świątek stressed that to her Ukraine “is a very important matter”.
“Never have I imagined that a war could be so close. I was born in times of relative peace for our part of Europe. I have noticed that, in the beginning, the tennis world’s interest in what has been going on in Ukraine was very strong. Many female tennis players donned ribbons in the colours of that country. However, with the passage of time, this changed and ribbons disappeared after a couple matches. My ribbon remains. Many players refuse to comment on the topic of war. I respect that because everyone does what they deem appropriate,” she said.
Initially Ms Świątek was to face Ukrainian Elina Svitolina but given her being expectant, the Ukrainian tennis player served the role of a referee during the WTA leader’s friendly against Ms Radwańska.
“For me this was revisiting tennis after a couple years. I would have never expected to play a single with the world’s best player and, on top of that, in my hometown of Kraków. I did this only because of the superb initiative, not for the sake of my career. When I got a call from Isa, I could not reject her proposal. Events like this are probably the best way to help children from Ukraine who were left with nothing. We can hope that this will help them return to normal life,” said Ms Radwańska whose trophy showcase boasts 20 victories in WTA, first runner up to WTA ranking leader and the second place in a Wimbledon.
The event in Kraków incorporated music with a Polish-Ukrainian band Enej and vocalist Anastazja performing.
The first match played during the event was a mixed double. Radwańska teamed up with Ukrainian tennis player Sergiy Eduardovych Stakhovsky while Świątek joined forces with a promising Polish junior tennis player Maryn Pawelski. The latter duo won 6:4.
The second game featured Świątek playing against Radwańska. Spectators were surprised to see the retired player beat WTA leader Świątek 6:4. Both players were generously applauded following their game.
“I wanted to thank all of you for being here, for making this wonderful event a reality,” Ms Świątek addressed the fans.
Former footballer, winner of the 2004 golden ball and United 24 ambassador Andriy Mykolayovych Shevchenko was the event’s special guest. Mr Shevchenko called the event organised by Iga Świątek “an amazing signal of solidarity”, which is all the more important today as the world slowly stops talking about the war in Ukraine while “the tragedy continues”.
The revenue from the match amounting to 420,000 EUR will be transferred to charitable organisations, such as United 24, UNICEF Poland and Elina Svitolina Foundation.
United 24 is an official fund that will provide medical help to child victims of the war in Ukraine. UNICEF Poland supports the youngest inhabitants of Ukraine currently residing in Poland. The Elina Svitolina Foundation directly aids tennis players and their families who suffered in the war.