Elina Svitolina wore the colours of the Ukrainian flag as she thrashed Russia's Anastasia Potapova 6-2 6-1 in the first round of the Monterrey Open on Tuesday.
Svitolina had refused to play her opening match against Potapova on Monday, insisting the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the ATP and WTA ensure Russian and Belarusian tennis players compete as “neutral athletes”. It was a stance supported by Eurosport's Mats Wilander.
However, the match went ahead after tennis authorities confirmed late on Tuesday that Russian and Belarusian players could play on the tours but without national flags.
French Open 2022: Who's playing? Who could miss out? Will Nadal be fit?
After Svitolina's easy victory, the top seed spoke of how it was her mission to unite the world of tennis during Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"Today it was a very special match for me," the world No. 15 said.
Image credit: Getty Images
"I'm in a very sad mood, but I'm happy that I'm playing tennis here. I was focused. I was on a mission for my country. From the beginning, it was important to be ready for anything that comes my way.
"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 using my platform and using my resources to introduce that and try to invite people to support Ukraine."
Svitolina, who is the tournament's top seed, said she would donate her prize money from the tournament - the winner receiving £23,000 - to the Ukrainian army.
"For me, playing the match here, I'm not playing only for myself," she added.
"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."
Svitolina will play Viktoriya Tomova in the second round.
- Russia, Belarus banned from team events, individuals to play on tour
- Medvedev still a long way from big three's top level - Wilander
Also on Tuesday, Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska defeated Romania's Ana Bogdan 3-6 7-6 (7) 7-6 (7) in her opening match of the Lyon Open.
The match came just four days after Yastremska had fled her home country, arriving in Romania by boat before getting to Lyon by Saturday.
She wrote on Instagram that she spent two days in an underground car park as Russian troops advanced before leaving her home country.
"I'm happy that I won for my country, but at the same time I'm very sad," the 21-year-old said after her hard-fought victory.
"My heart stays at home, and my mind is fighting here, so it's very difficult to find the concentration, to find the balance.
"This win, compared to what's going on in my country, is nothing. But I'm happy, at least, I'm also fighting for my country. I'm really proud of the Ukrainians and they're really heroes. I hope everything is going to finish soon."
Russia and Belarus have been banned from the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup.
'I applaud their efforts' - Wilander on Svitolina and players taking stand over Ukraine invasion
Svitolina: Ukraine situation has left me mentally drained
Osaka starts clay season in style with easy win over Potapova
Share this article