Dressed in Ukraine’s blue and gold colors, a fired-up Elina Svitolina on Tuesday thrashed Russian Anastasia Potapova in Mexico, and said it was her mission to unite the tennis world behind her country following Russia’s invasion.
Svitolina had initially refused to play her opening match against Potapova at the Monterrey Open, but went ahead after tennis authorities decided to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing under the name and flag of their countries.
That decision followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week. Belarus has been a key staging area for the invasion.
“I think it’s my mission to unite our tennis community to stand with Ukraine, to help Ukraine, because what we’re going through is a horrible thing for all Ukrainians,” Svitolina said after her win.
“That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m playing for my country and doing my best using my platform and using my resources to introduce that and try to invite people to support Ukraine,” she said.
Svitolina, who has said she would donate her prize money from the tournament to the Ukrainian army, defeated Potapova 6-2, 6-1, thumping her chest repeatedly on court.
The players exchanged a few words at the net after the match, before Svitolina showed her appreciation for the support from the crowd.
TV graphics had a blank space next to where Potapova’s flag and country would normally have been.
In Lyon on Tuesday, fellow Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska collapsed in a heap on court after her victory over Romanian Ana Bogdan at the WTA 250 tournament.
The 21-year-old and her younger sister had spent two nights in an underground car park last week before their parents sent them out of Ukraine by boat to Romania and then safely to France.
“I’m happy that I won for my country, but at the same time I’m very sad,” said Yastremska, who wrapped herself in an Ukrainian flag after her 3-6, 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (9/7) victory.
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