World No.1 Iga Swiatek hosted the "Swiatek & Friends for Ukraine" charity exhibition at the Tauron Arena in Krakow, Poland, on Saturday. Joined by former World No.2 Agnieszka Radwanska, 2018 WTA Finals Champion Elina Svitolina, ATP player Sergiy Stakhovsky and rising Polish junior Martyn Pawelski, Swiatek entertained her home crowd in mixed doubles and singles. Ukrainian footballer Andrey Shevchenko also attended as a special guest.
Watch a replay of the event here.
Swiatek and Pawelski would take the entertaining mixed doubles on a deciding point but the marquee event of the day was Swiatek's singles set against Radwanska. The torch-bearer for Polish tennis over the last decade, Radwanska retired in 2018. That same year, a 17-year-old Swiatek won junior Wimbledon. The two narrowly missed each other on the Hologic WTA Tour.
"It's pretty funny because when I started on WTA, that was her first year where she didn't play," Swiatek said. "I was pretty sad that we never got a chance to even be around [each other]."
The idea for the charity exhibition had been percolating in Swiatek's mind ever since the war broke out in February. It was formally hatched during discussions with her team on the flight from Doha to Indian Wells. Swiatek initially reached out to Svitolina for the one-on-one exhibition, but the Ukrainian was sidelined due to pregnancy. That paved the way for Swiatek to reach out to Radwanska.
Radwanska began training in earnest to prepare for her showdown with the World No.1. She impressed at the Wimbledon Legends event earlier in the month as well, playing with Jelena Jankovic. After spending the week practicing with Swiatek, Radwanska was ready. The veteran used all her court-craft and guile to keep Swiatek moving all over the court to take the exhibition match 6-4.
After a hug at the net and a standing ovation for both women from the crowd, Swiatek signed the camera with a singular message: 'Aga, come back on tour!'
"I would have never expected to play singles with the world’s best player and, on top of that, in my hometown of Kraków," Radwanska said. "I did this only because of the superb initiative, not for the sake of my career.
"When I got a call from Iga, 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."
The event was a resounding success, raising over 400,000 Euros for three organizations that have worked to provide relief and aid to Ukrainian children: United 24, UNICEF Polska and the Elina Svitolina Foundation.
"Since the outbreak of the war, my motivation to organize this event was still equally high," Swiatek said in a statement. "I know social memory is short, so we wanted to realize this idea. To remind the world that the war in Ukraine is not over. We had less than four months to do this, so I am all the more grateful that we did.
"Seeing TAURON Arena full of fans who had so much fun and looking at the engagement of other players, I was moved. I think that we have accomplished the task of helping through tennis, and we have shown the tremendous social power of sport."
🙌 Dziękuję Wam! Razem zebraliśmy 2,5 miliona złotych dla dzieci i nastolatków dotkniętych wojną w Ukrainie.— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) July 26, 2022
🙌 Thank you! Together we collected more than half a million Euro for children that are suffering because of the war in Ukraine. #IgaandFriendsforUkraine@GrupaPZU https://t.co/S5N4uilO3U