Tennis

“Emotionally the hardest match of my life” – Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska on tennis during the invasion of Russia

"Emotionally the hardest match of my life" - Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska on tennis during the invasion of Russia

Dayana Yastremska spoke forcefully about the feelings she faced trying to play tennis as her native Ukraine was invaded by Russia.

Speaking to Eurosport, Yastremska spoke of her emotional struggles on and off the pitch, with her country suffering badly at the hands of her neighbour. His compatriot, Elina Svitolina, shared her equally moving thoughts during an interview last week.
The UN says about 1 million people fled Ukraine following the conflict with Yastremska and her younger sister, Ivanna, some of whom exited through Romania. Yastremska is currently playing in a tournament in France.

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“It was the most difficult match of my life emotionally and what I felt inside,” said Yastremska, who beat Ana Bogdan in straight sets at the Lyon Open on Tuesday.

“There are no words to describe it because, as I said on the pitch, my heart remains in Ukraine and my mind must be on the pitch and fighting. It’s very difficult to find the Balance It was very difficult to be able to manage the emotions.

“In your head there are a lot of thoughts, and with my family in Ukraine, a lot of people are fighting there. Of course, this victory, compared to what is happening in Ukraine, is nothing. less I am doing my best also to fight for my country.

“Where I can do that, where I can fight is on a tennis court. So I also try to show the maximum support from me. My sister is currently the closest person who is with me, and she’s also a great support, especially yesterday in the game, I could see how nervous she was, even after the game, she was so emotional.

“She started crying a bit that she wanted to be back home with her family. I can understand that she is still small and we miss our parents, of course, and we miss our city. Long before the start from the war, we had completely different plans for each of us, but now we have to stick together, we have to be together and we have to move on.

“Like my dad said, you never know how it’s going to be. So we have to build our future. Maybe 15 minutes before we started this interview, my dad texted me and my mom texted a text message to my sister that the mermaid has started in Odessa so they will have to go underground, we never thought this could happen.

“So after Dubai [in mid-February], we were going to go home, we were going to train for a while and then we were going to go to France. But you see how things can happen and change in life. Just in a few hours.”

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Yastremska told how she left Ukraine – and how her parents remained in the war zone.

“The 24 [February], my father and I had to leave for Lyon, and my mother would stay with my sister. But on the 23rd we fell asleep, we were packed, ready to go, and on the morning of the 24th the war started, the bombs and everything. Late in the evening of the 24th, our father made the decision that early in the morning of the 25th we were going to go to Romania via Izmail [in south-western Ukraine]. We were going to cross the border there and we were going to leave with the van towards Lyon as best we could.

“On the 24th they canceled all the flights, they closed everything, even through Moldova. It was impossible to drive and take the car too [due to a river crossing]. It was very dangerous because they started bombing and you don’t know where it was going to come from. If you’re not experienced with everything that’s going on, you won’t really understand what it feels like when you go out to the supermarket with your little sister and somewhere not so far away there’s the bombs – that sound and everything becomes super crazy.

“So the decision was made very late on the 24th – my mother probably had to come with us. But when we arrived ready through Izmail, at the Ukrainian border with Romania, the mother decided, we all decided, she was going to stay with my father because we didn’t want him to leave alone, we cried a lot because we were on the boat crossing the river to Romania, we saw our parents there and we really cried because we didn’t know where we were going to see them next time.

We didn’t know how it was going to end. It’s a tough, tough time.

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“It was a great pleasure for us to meet the mayor of the city [Lyon], and during the stay there, we received a lot of support. We had a lot of kind words and I could see how much the French really want to support Ukraine, how they know almost everything about it, and it was a very good conversation. I am very grateful to the mayor for everything he said, especially about them doing their best to support and send Ukraine something that Ukraine needs.

“I was quite shocked when the war started and how everyone supported Ukraine. How many people are coming out for the protests. How much solidarity is being shown, and it’s crazy because for us Ukrainians now, it’s very hard – and I can imagine how hard it is for the Ukrainians who are fighting.This support means a lot to Ukraine.

“The more I have the opportunity to talk to the world to show them what is happening in Ukraine, the more I will do it because we really need support. I hope everyone understands that what is happening there- down now is something very dangerous, and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone or any country.”

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