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On a mission for Ukraine, Svitolina’s run ends in Monterrey

Ukraine’s standard-bearer ends her run in Monterrey

Elina Svitolina Elina Svitolina in action in Monterrey (Panoramic)

In a week in which her country has been in the news for the worst of reasons, Elina Svitolina has stepped into the spotlight.

She has spoken up for what she calls her “motherland”, and called for – and received – action from the tennis authorities. Amidst a backdrop of war, she has also played a tennis tournament, calling it her “mission” to represent Ukraine, and donating her prize money to military and humanitarian causes there.

Her run in Monterrey ended at the quarter-final stage, beaten by Maria Camila Osorio Serrano 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(5). She had been a double-break up in the third set but could not hold on to the lead, falling in two hours and 33 minutes.

Elina Svitolina, Monterrey 2022
Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina in Monterrey © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

But her progress there could have ended before it even began. She had said before the tournament that she would not take to the court and play a Russian or Belarusian athlete representing their country or flag, demanding that tennis’s governing bodies make those individuals play as neutrals. The powers-that-be bowed to the pressure.

And so wearing the blue and yellow of the Ukraine flag, the top seed did play her first-round match against Anastasia Potapova – a Russian – and took her apart 6-2, 6-1.

“I was on a mission for my country,” she reflected. “I’m in a very sad mood, but I’m happy I’m here playing tennis.

“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 to use my platform to try to invite people to support Ukraine.”

Svitolina – I’m not playing just for myself

Explaining her decision to donate her prize money, she said: “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. Every victory that I’m going to get is going to be very special.”

The 27-year-old followed it up with a second-round win over Viktoriya Tomova, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-2. A fairytale title or a run to the final was too much to ask for as she lost to the woman who seems to be becoming her nemesis, beating her 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 in Tenerife last October.

Svitolina will next be heading to Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open – and will resume her special mission there.

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