Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina has said she will donate any prizes she wins at the Monterrey Open to the Ukrainian military.
The world No. 15, dressed in Ukrainian yellow and blue, beat Russia’s Anastasia Potapova – who was not competing under the Russian flag following new sanctions from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) – 6- 2 6-1 to reach the second round in Mexico.
Svitolina initially said she would not compete on the WTA Tour against players from Russia or Belarus competing under their respective flags following the invasion of Ukraine, but reversed her decision after Tuesday’s joint decision by the ITF , WTA and ATP.
“This is a very, very special event for me. All the money I will earn here will go to the Ukrainian army,” she said during her court interview. “So thank you very much for your support.
“Usually I was just focused,” she added. “I was on a mission for my country.”
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Svitolina, the No. 1 seed in Monterrey and its 2020 champion, will face Bulgarian qualifier Viktoriya Tomova in the second round.
“It’s a very special atmosphere every time I play here and especially today it’s a very special game for me and a moment,” she said.
“I’m in a very sad mood, but I’m happy to be here to play tennis. It’s nice to play in front of you, thank you.”
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At the Lyon Open, fellow Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska fell to her knees after beating Romania’s Ana Bogdan 3-6 7-6 7-6 in what she called “the toughest match of my life”. .
The 21-year-old, who saved two match points in the three-hour epic, fled Ukraine by boat last week after spending two nights sheltering in an underground car park with her younger sister.
Yastremska traveled to Romania and then to Lyon, where she had a wildcard for the tournament.
“I’m happy to have won for my country, but at the same time I’m very sad,” she said in her court interview, the Ukrainian flag draped over her shoulders. “My heart stays at home and my mind is fighting here, so it’s very difficult to find the focus, to find the balance.
“This victory, compared to what is happening in my country, is nothing, but I am happy. At least I am also fighting for my country. I’m really proud of the Ukrainians and they really are heroes. I hope it will all be over soon.