Iga Swiatek is using her US Open victory to spotlight Ukraine because 'the war is basically right next to my country'

·4 min read
Iga Swiatek.
Swiatek.Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports
  • Iga Swiatek won the 2022 US Open Saturday to secure her third-career Grand Slam title.

  • The 21-year-old Polish star has used her platform to shed light on the ongoing war in Ukraine.

  • During a TODAY show appearance, Swiatek said "the war basically is right next to my country."

Iga Swiatek completed one of the most stunning feats of her young tennis career Saturday, besting world No. 5 Ons Jabeur 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) to win the 2022 US Open women's singles title.

And while she's celebrated her third-career Grand Slam victory while finishing out her stay in New York City, the 21-year-old Polish star has made a point to keep the focus on an issue that hits close to home: the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Iga Swiatek wears a ribbon to support Ukraine during her matches.
Swiatek wears a ribbon to support Ukraine during her matches.Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

During an appearance on TODAY Monday morning, the tennis ace reflected on why she's put such an emphasis on raising awareness of the atrocities in Eastern Europe.

"I'm Pole, so we're really helping back in our country," Swiatek said. "Even though I spend much more time on tour than at home, I know that we have to stay united, and I also want to remind people that the war is still out there."

"It's really important for me to support Ukrainians because the war basically is right next to my country," she added. "I'm 21, so I didn't even — I always lived in a place where I didn't know that war is actually possible so close to me."

Iga Swiatek.
Swiatek wears a ribbon to support Ukraine during her matches.AP Photo/John Minchillo

Swiatek described feeling "really emotional" when news first arrived that Russia had invaded Ukraine back in February. But it didn't take long for the world No. 1 to realize that she wanted "to use my position to have influence — a positive one."

In addition to regularly wearing a ribbon with Ukraine's flag colors during matches and urging the country to "stay strong" during victory speeches, Swiatek has also participated in and organized charity events to benefit her home country's embattled neighbor.

In July, she hosted a one-day event called "Iga Swiatek and Friends for Ukraine" in Warsaw to raise money for the Ukrainian youth impacted by the conflict in their country. She played exhibition matches alongside several Polish stars, while Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina served as the umpire.

Iga Swiatek hits the ball during her "Iga Swiatek and Friends for Ukraine" charity event.
Swiatek hits the ball during her "Iga Swiatek and Friends for Ukraine" charity event.Krzysztof Porebski/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

At the end of the event, Swiatek and company had raised more than $500,000 for United 24, the Elina Svitolina Foundation, and UNICEF Poland.

"I'm pretty proud of that charity event because it's amazing that we were able to do something like that," Swiatek said during a US Open press conference. "It shows also that if I'm going to have any idea for the future, that actually my team in Poland, which I'm so grateful for, is going to be able to handle all of it."

And ahead of this year's US Open, Swiatek participated in the "Tennis Plays for Peace" exhibition alongside Rafael Nadal, John McEnroe, Coco Gauff, Carlos Alcaraz, Leylah Fernandez, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jessica Pegula, Matteo Berrettini, Maria Sakkari, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul, Sebastian Korda, and Ben Shelton. Together, the group raised more than $1.2 million for GlobalGiving's Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund.

Iga Swiatek (right) and Rafael Nadal team up for a "Tennis Plays for Peace" exhibition event.
Swiatek (right) and Rafael Nadal team up for a "Tennis Plays for Peace" exhibition event.AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

And immediately after her victory Saturday evening, Swiatek noted the importance of Poland staying strong — "especially right now."

"We gotta stay united and really support ourselves and stay together," she said during her on-court interview. "I'm pretty happy that I can unite people with our sport."

"We're trying to do our best to be good people and be good examples," she added.

Check out Swiatek's full appearance on TODAY below:


Read the original article on Insider