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Ukraine Team Hope Billie Jean King Cup Tie Will Bring Distraction from War

Ukraine players for the Billie Jean King Cup (Instagram)

Ukraine players for the Billie Jean King Cup (Instagram)

Ukraine face the United States in the Billie Jean King Cup with the war back home hanging over them

Ukraine’s players hope to provide some much-needed distraction for their compatriots this week when they face the United States in the Billie Jean King Cup but concede it is difficult to keep their thoughts from drifting to the war back home.

The two teams will meet on Friday and Saturday in Asheville, North Carolina in a qualifier for the BJK Finals in November, with the tie being held against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special operation”.

Ukraine captain Olga Savchuk and team member Katarina Zavatska said if they go on to win the Finals later in the year, they would happily swap the trophy for peace in their country.

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“We also think at least maybe our match, our tie, will give our people some things to get their mind off,” Savchuk told reporters on Tuesday.

“It’s probably impossible, but at least some hope. I think it’s also very important that we play, we fight and we try to win.”

The seven governing bodies of tennis have each donated $100,000 to relief efforts in Ukraine while the United States Tennis Association will contribute a further 10% of their overall ticket revenue from this week’s qualifier.

King, a 12-times Grand Slam singles champion in whose honour the revamped Fed Cup was renamed, will be donating $50,000.

Former world number 103 Zavatska said her mother, grandmother and some others moved to her apartment in France, where she trains, during the first week of the war.

“It’s very tough. Every day it’s tough. There is no one day that we don’t think about it,” said the 22-year-old, whose father and some other family members remain in the western Ukrainian city of Rivne.

“First week it was tough to do anything. Just to be even around, I don’t know, surrounded by people, who listen to music, who laugh, who live, who talk, it was impossible. I understand people have to live, but at that time …

“What I can do is play tournaments, earn money, send this to my family to help them because nobody has a job right now there in my family. Everybody is just home. They have nothing to do to earn.”

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first published:April 13, 2022, 13:24 IST