U.S. Open to hold humanitarian aid effort for Ukraine

NEW YORK, Aug 10 (Reuters) - The U.S. Open will host a tournament-long campaign to raise awareness and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) said on Wednesday, with a goal of raising $2 million in relief.

The effort will kick off August 24 with an exhibition event at Louis Armstrong Stadium in New York, with 22-times Grand Slam winner Rafa Nadal, world number one Iga Swiatek and John McEnroe among the headliners.

Ticket sales will go toward assisting impacted communities in Ukraine.

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"This is a vitally important cause, and I'm proud of the way in which our sport has rallied together to lend a much-needed hand to our friends in Ukraine," USTA Chairman and President Mike McNulty said in a statement.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, calling it a "special military operation" aimed at preemptively safeguarding its security against NATO expansion. Ukraine and the West accuse Moscow of waging an unprovoked imperial-style war of aggression.

Belarus, a close Russian ally, was a key staging ground as Russia launched the invasion.

Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarusian players from competing this year, following in the steps of sporting bodies around the globe. read more

The U.S. Open, in contrast, will allow competitors from the two countries to play under a neutral flag, a move that Ukrainian Olympic bronze medallist Elina Svitolina criticised.

"I don't support it because I feel like they should have taken more serious action," she told Reuters in June. read more

The U.S. Open main draw begins August 29.

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Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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