Ukraine’s fairy-tale Australian Open qualifier hails ‘our fighting people’
Dayana Yastremska extends dream tournament run to be her country’s first woman to qualify at semifinals in 45 years
Melbourne — Dayana Yastremska extended her dream run at the Australian Open on Wednesday to become Ukraine’s first women’s qualifier to reach the semifinals in 45 years but made sure to remind tennis fans about her countrymen fighting at home.
Getting to the pointy end of the year’s first Grand Slam was not a specific goal for the 23-year-old, but instead she has focused on keeping her emotions in check after battling personal challenges, which she did not want to talk about.
“I was just trying to enjoy playing here,” Yastremska told reporters after beating Czech teen Linda Noskova 6-3 6-4. ‘our fighting people’
Renewed attacks on Ukraine add to the weight on the shoulders of the world No 93, who revealed at an Australian Open lead-up tournament in Brisbane that just before one of her matches a rocket hit her grandmother’s house.
At Melbourne Park, she has been undaunted by higher-ranked players across the net, beating former Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova along the way.
“The girls, you know, at any ranking can show [an] amazing game,” she said.
“I was doing just my thing and focusing on myself, the way I play. I think that’s working.”
On her way off the court, Yastremska, dressed in blue and yellow matching her country’s flag, scribbled on the camera: “I’m proud of our fighting people from Ukraine.”
She said later that the fighters deserve huge respect. “I think it’s my mission here,” she said. “If I do well, I can get ... [it’s] tough to express. I’m just trying to give the signal to Ukraine that I’m really proud of it.”
With Russia at war with Ukraine, Ukrainian players on the tour have refused to shake hands with opponents from Russia and Belarus, which has been used as a staging ground for Russian attacks.
However, a Ukrainian junior, Yelyzaveta Kotliar, caused a stir when she shook hands with her Russian opponent after losing her first round match this week. Yastremska called it a youthful mistake.
“You know, Ukrainians, we have our position. We are not shaking the hands. But I think she’s still a little young, not so experienced,” said Yastremska.
“But I’m sure that she stands by Ukraine, and I’m sure she just got too emotional and confused.”
Yastremska is not letting tennis get in the way of her musical ambitions. She is working on releasing a song with two other people in February that she said would bring together three countries.
“You’re going to hear it soon, I hope.”
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