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Ukrainian tennis star reaches final a week after escaping Russian bombs

Dayana Yastremska had a Ukraine flag draped over her shoulders when she walked on court

Dayana Yastremska (UKR) after winning against Sorana Cirstea (ROM).
Dayana Yastremska (UKR) after winning against Sorana Cirstea (ROM).
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated at 16.15

UKRAINE’S DAYANA Yastremska reached the Lyon WTA final on Saturday, just a week after escaping Russian bomb attacks on her home city of Odessa, and said: “I can deal with everything”.

The 21-year-old beat Romanian second seed Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4 after two and a half hours in the semi-final.

“My spirit is pretty strong right now — that’s why I think I can deal with everything. I’m Ukrainian, and Ukrainian people are very strong. You can see that now during the war,” the former world number 21, who dropped to her knees at the moment of victory, told a news conference.

“Every win from now on goes to my country. Compared to what’s going on, it has no big meaning.”

Yastremska fell short of a dream title in Lyon on Sunday, however, losing the final to Zhang Shuai.

World number 140 Yastremska, who had draped the Ukraine flag around her shoulders at every match this week, went down 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to her 64th-ranked opponent.

It was her first final since losing to Ashleigh Barty at Adelaide in 2020.

Yastremska arrived in Lyon last Saturday and spoke of being “woken up by bombs” when Russia invaded Ukraine, before embarking on an arduous journey to France.

She and her family had spent two nights sheltering from the attacks in an underground car park in the Black Sea port city of Odessa.

Her father and mother remained behind after saying goodbye to Yastremska and her 15-year-old sister Ivanna when they crossed the Danube by boat to reach Romania.

“I need to think what I feel right now. I feel in the clouds, I don’t really realise I’m in the final,” Yastremska told the crowd after a tense semi-final which saw her squander three match points and get broken in the ninth game of the decider by 30th-ranked Cirstea.

“In the third set, when I had match points then lost the game, I was crazy, I thought, ‘OK, I’m done, I’ve lost, because I don’t have any more power’. Then everybody supported me and I felt like you can do it. Because of you I am here still winning.”

Yastremska has won three WTA titles but her last was in May 2019 at Strasbourg.

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“I read a lot of news every day,” she added. “Sometimes during the night I get messages from groups with the news; sometimes I wake up and read what’s going on, especially with my city. So I wouldn’t say I sleep here really good. I wake up pretty tired in the morning.”

Her win on Saturday came the day after Ukrainian number one Elina Svitolina was knocked out of the Monterrey WTA tournament by Colombia’s Maria Camila Osorio in the quarter-finals.

Svitolina pledged to dedicate her prize money at the event to the Ukraine military.

Meanwhile, the Ukraine men’s team reached the Davis Cup World Group after beating Barbados in a play-off on Saturday in a tie switched to Turkey for security reasons.

– © AFP 2022

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