Svitolina returns to WTA, loses Charleston opener

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Two-time Grand Slam semifinalist Elina Svitolina played a WTA match for the first time as a mother on Monday, losing to Yulia Putintseva 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-4 at the Charleston Open.

Svitolina has been ranked as high as No. 3 and is currently No. 1,081, because she was off the professional tennis tour for a little more than a year. She and her husband, fellow player Gael Monfils, became parents in October, when their daughter, Skai, was born.

The first-round match in the main stadium of a tournament played on green clay lasted 2 hours, 46 minutes on a cloudy, breezy day and was filled with momentum swings.

Putintseva led 5-4 in the opening set and was a point from taking it. But Svitolina held steady and forced a tiebreaker. Putintseva grabbed a 3-1 edge there, before Svitolina reeled off the next six points to claim the set, shaking a clenched fist and yelling, “Let’s go!”

After Putintseva dominated the second set, the third was even at 4-all before she pulled it out, frequently using drop shots to gain the edge — including on match point.

The previous time Svitolina competed at a tournament, at the Miami Open in March 2022, she was ranked No. 20. She received a wild-card invitation to get into the main draw in Charleston.

The 28-year-old from Ukraine entered Monday with a 6-1 head-to-head record against Putintseva, winning their past six matches in a row.

Svitolina reached the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2019 and won the season-ending WTA Finals the year before.

“It’s very nice to have her back. She’s always been super nice and an inspiration for me, because she was a warrior on court, a fighter, and I love these kind of players. It’s even more inspirational seeing her come back as a mom,” said Paula Badosa, who is seeded 12th in Charleston. “I’m very happy for her and I hope soon she’s back where she belongs.”

In other Day 1 matches, 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova beat Jil Teichmann 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, Anna Kalinskaya defeated Anhelina Kalinina 7-6 (6), 6-4, qualifier Katherine Sebov got past Lauren Davis 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, and Anna Blinkova eliminated Anna Bondar 7-6 (7), 6-2 to set up a second-round matchup against top-seeded Jessica Pegula.

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