Monterrey | Svitolina wins for Ukraine

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Top seed Elina Svitolina, who vowed not to play any Russian or Belarusian players until the WTA made a stand against the invasion of Ukraine, made a dramatic u-turn after the international governing bodies of the sport issued a joint statement announcing the suspension of Russian and Belarusian teams from international tournaments, while still allowing individual players to compete without their national flags or with their nationalities unacknowledged.

It’s been six days and all the Ukrainian tennis players and Ukrainians who are there, we have been really terrified with what is happening. For me, playing the match here, I’m not playing only for myself. I’m playing for my country, I’m playing for the help of the Ukrainian army and people in need. Elina Svitolina

“I do not blame any of the Russian athletes,” Svitolina wrote on social media on Monday. “They are not responsible for the invasion of our motherland.

“I believe the current situation requires a clear position from our organisations: ATP, WTA and ITF.

“As such, we – Ukrainian players – requested to ATP, WTA and ITF to follow the recommendations of the IOC to accept Russian or Belarusian nationals only as neutral athletes, without displaying any national symbols, colours, flags or anthems.”

A host of International Federations have banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in their events as a result of the situation in Ukraine, while the ITF suspended the membership of the National Federations from Belarus and Russia, and banned both countries from competing in its international team events, meaning Russia will now be unable to defend its Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup titles.

The ATP and WTA added that a joint tournament due to be held in Moscow in October has been suspended.

Since the start of the Russian invasion, hundreds of civilians have been killed and the United Nations’ Refugee Agency calculates more than 520,000 people have fled Ukraine.

Wearing the kit that she sported at the Tokyo Olympics, where she won the bronze medal, Svitolina took to the court to thrash 115th-ranked Anastasia Potapova, 6-2 6-1, finally opening her campaign at the Abierto GNP Seguros at Monterrey, Mexico, on Tuesday night.

She powered through the 64-minute match, serving at 68.0% and winning 73.5% of her first-serve points, over 55.0% of her second serve points, and saving all 3 break points she faced.

The former World No 3, who is currently ranked 15, has been outspoken in the wake of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, demanding action from the tennis hierarchy.

Sporting Ukraine’s blue and gold colours, Svitolina said it was her mission to unite the tennis world behind her country following the invasion.

“It’s a special one because of what we are going through right now in Ukraine, it’s terrifying,” Svitolina told reporters after the match. “It’s been six days and all the Ukrainian tennis players and Ukrainians who are there, we have been really terrified with what is happening.”

Svitolina also announced she would be donating her prize money from this week’s tournament to the Ukrainian army.

“For me, playing the match here, I’m not playing only for myself,” she said. “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 gonna get is going to be very special.

“I think it’s my mission to unite our tennis community to stand with Ukraine because what we’re going through is a horrible thing for all Ukrainians.”

 

Petra Martic upset Madison Keys, the No 3 seed in Monterrey, on Tuesday

© Gonzalo Gonzalez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Earlier in the day, Croatia’s Petra Martic rallied from a set down and saved a match point to upset No 3 seed and Australian Open semi-finalist Madison Keys from the USA, 4-6 7-6(3) 6-3.

The win is Martic’s first Top 50 win on a hard-court since 2020 Dubai, and she will face Guadalajara finalist Marie Bouzkova in the Round of 16, after the Czech held off Italian qualifier Sara Errani, 4-6 6-2 6-4.

China’s Wang Xinyu also produced a notable upset, defeating another American, Ann Li, the No 8 seed, 6-2 6-1, in just 57 minutes.

Other results from Day 2 in Monterrey include 6th-seeded Nuria Parrizas Diaz from Spain defeating Japan’s Misaki Doi, 6-2 6-1, while China’s Wang Qiang edged out Hungarian qualifier Dalma Galfi, 6-7 6-1 6-4, and 19-year-old Zheng Qinwen, also from China, beat Italian lucky loser Lucia Bronzetti, 6-2 6-3.

The rising Chinese teenager will face No 2 seed Leylah Fernandez from Canada next.

American Sloane Stephens, who won Guadalajara last week, withdrew shortly before she was due to play her opening match against Egypt’s Mayar Sherif, who later had to battle past lucky loser Seone Mendez from Australia, 6-1 6-7(2) 6-4.

 

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