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, with a Ukraine flag draped over her shoulders when she walked on court and playing in her country’s blue and yellow, beat Romanian second seed Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4 after two and a half hours.
“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.”
On Sunday, the world number 140 will face China’s 64th-ranked Zhang Shuai, who defeated France’s Caroline Garcia 6-2, 7-5, for the title.
It will be 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.
“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.