Skip to content

Elina Svitolina: Ukraine tennis star beats Russian Anastasia Potapova at the Monterrey Open

Svitolina thrashed Potapova 6-2, 6-1, having previously said she wouldn't play against any Russian or Belarussian opponent; Fellow Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska also paid tribute to her home country after victory in a WTA 250 event in Lyon

Image: Elina Svitolina wore the colours of the Ukrainian flag in her victory at the Monterrey Open

Ukraine's Elina Svitolina thrashed Russian Anastasia Potapova in Mexico on Tuesday, deciding she could do more for her country by playing than boycotting the match.

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.

"Today it was a very special match for me," the 27-year-old Svitolina said. "I'm in a very sad mood, but I'm happy that I'm playing tennis here.

"I was focused. I was on a mission for my country. From the beginning, it was important to be ready for anything that comes my way."

The former world No 3, who played dressed in Ukraine's blue and gold colours, added: "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.

"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."

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.

More from Wta Tour, 2022

The players exchanged a few words at the net after the match before Svitolina showed her appreciation for the support from the crowd, while television graphics had a blank space next to where Potapova's flag and country would normally have been.

"For me, playing the match here, I'm not playing only for myself," said Svitolina. "I'm playing for my country, I'm playing for the help of the Ukrainian army and people in need. Every victory that I'm going to get is going to be very special."

Image: Elina Svitolina paid tribute to her home country after her victory

Yastremska: I won for my country

In Lyon, 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 a Ukrainian flag after her 3-6 7-6(7) 7-6(7) victory.

"My heart stays at home, and my mind is fighting here, so it's very difficult to find the concentration, to find the balance.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Leif Shiras feels Russian tennis players shouldn't be banned because of their country's war on Ukraine but understands Elina Svitolina's position.

"This win, compared to what's going on in my country, is nothing. But I'm happy, at least, I'm also fighting for my country. I'm really proud of the Ukrainians and they're really heroes. I hope everything is going to finish soon."

Russia banned from Davis Cup defence

Russia has been banned from defending its Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup titles, but its players will still be allowed to compete at the Grand Slams and in regular tour events.

The Russian Tennis Federation team celebrate with the trophy after winning the Davis Cup tennis final at the Madrid Arena in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Image: The Russian Tennis Federation team celebrate with the trophy after winning the Davis Cup tennis final at the Madrid Arena in December

The decision by tennis authorities follows Russia's invasion of Ukraine last week. Belarus, a key staging area for the invasion, which Russia says is a "special operation", has also been banned from the international team competitions.

"The international governing bodies of tennis stand united in our condemnation of Russia's actions," the ATP, WTA, International Tennis Federation and the Grand Slams said in a joint statement.

Russian and Belarusian players will be able to play on the elite ATP and WTA Tours but not under the name or flag of their countries, the governing bodies said.

The tennis authorities also suspended Moscow's combined WTA-ATP event scheduled for October. It is unclear whether Russia will be able to compete in the lucrative team-based ATP Cup in Australia. Russia made the semi-finals of the 2022 event in January and won the 2021 tournament.

Around Sky