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Pro Media & News

U.S., Ukraine teams and captains touch down in Asheville for Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier

Victoria Chiesa | April 12, 2022

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Team USA and Team Ukraine arrived at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville on Tuesday for the first day of official team practice for this weekend’s Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier with the same goal in mind: win three of a possible five scheduled matches and take their place as one of 12 nations at November’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals. 


But as hosts, Team USA has, for this tie, another priority: to make its guests feel as welcome as possible with the ongoing war in Ukraine omnipresent in the background of this competition. As part of that effort, the USTA and the International Tennis Federation have split the costs associated with Ukraine’s travel to and lodging in Asheville, and the USTA has provided the team with all the resources it needs—including athletic trainers, massage therapists and more—because much of Ukraine’s tennis federation’s support staff was unable to travel. 


Olga Savchuk, a former touring pro who is making her debut as team captain in this tie, is the leading non-player who traveled for the Ukrainian delegation, and she expressed heartfelt gratitude for these efforts when she met with the media in her pre-event press conference on Tuesday afternoon. 

“We are really appreciative and grateful for that because they really came up right away with this plan, with the support and help. It wasn't even a question,” Savchuk said.


"Everything that we need, we get it without even a question.”


Tennis has been touched in numerous ways by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February, and the sport’s governing bodies as a whole have stood united in their vocal condemnation of the ongoing events. This week in Asheville, subtle signs of that unity can also be found in the competition arena. Signs and banners in and around the arena proclaim “USA hosts Ukraine,” rather than “versus.” A ribbon in Ukraine’s national colors, blue and yellow, is emblazoned on the side of the court surface. Both teams will gather Tuesday night for a group dinner where they’ll put tennis aside and, as Ukrainian player Katarina Zavatska says, “just be like normal people.”

And fans who attend the matches on Friday and Saturday will show their support just by walking through the doors. That’s because the USTA is donating 10% of this week's ticket sales to the Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund by Global Giving, and fans are being encouraged to make further donations to the “Tennis Plays for Peace” initiative. "We couldn't be more proud of that,” U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi told reporters in her own press conference. Launched by the ITF, WTA, ATP and the four Grand Slams—the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open—last month, contributions to Tennis Plays for Peace will augment a $700,000 combined donation from these seven governing bodies.


“When you look at tennis, we're really a true family. We come together when things are tough. We've always come together. I think it's quite incredible,” Rinaldi added. “We’re opponents on the court, but we're allies and friends off the court. We really do care for each other and we pull together when times get tough.”


Tennis thrives here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and both teams are expected to have vocal support in the stands on both Friday and Saturday. Team USA welcomed a sell-out crowd in its prior two trips to Asheville, and according to local census data, Buncombe County is also home to about 1,900 Ukrainians, or 0.7% of the population. Three of Team USA’s five nominated players—Jessica Pegula, Shelby Rogers and Alison Riske—are not new to Billie Jean King Cup competition, but they’re all soaking in the famed hospitality and charm that Asheville provides for the first time. 

“Last time I was here in Asheville, I was actually spectating; here supporting the team. I was still injured. I'm kind of drawing from some of those feelings,” Rogers said Tuesday, referencing the knee surgery and subsequent year-long layoff that sidelined her in 2018 and 2019. 


“The atmosphere last time was great. I just remember sitting there cheering with all my American flags, obviously wishing I could have played, but happy to be here to support the team at the time. It's nice that I can have a chance now to go out there and compete.”


Savchuk agrees. “I think it will be something very special, I would say. I’m sure we're going to have support from American people as well because we feel that, even outside of tennis, a lot,” she said. “We are proud that we have this chance and opportunity.”


Tickets for the 2022 Qualifier can be purchased at or at Ticketmaster. For more information, including access to player and historical records, visit the USTA's Billie Jean King Cup homepage of the official Billie Jean King Cup site.


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