A Ukrainian tennis star who fled war-torn Odessa to play the Lyon Open opened up about her ordeal on GMB today, saying when she plays her ‘heart is in Ukraine’ but her mind is in the field.
Dayana Yastremska, 21, left in the middle of the Russian invasion, after spending 48 hours hiding in an underground car park.
Yastremska, who has won three WTA titles and was ranked No. 21 in the world, was accompanied by her 15-year-old sister Ivanna while their parents remained in Ukraine.
Less than a week after the long journey, she reached the quarter-finals of the Lyon Open. She spoke to GMB hosts Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway about the struggles of being separated from her loved ones and how she is doing her best to focus on tennis.
Dayana Yastremska appeared on GMB today to discuss the flight from Ukraine and how she manages to stay focused on tennis
The brave 21-year-old (pictured, right) first revealed she was leaving the country with her 15-year-old sister, Ivanna (left), in an Instagram post
The 21-year-old celebrates the victory that sent her to the quarter-finals of the Lyon Open. She beat Christina Busca in just 65 minutes
Yastremska first revealed she was leaving Odessa in an Instagram post last week, sharing a photo of her and her sister sitting on luggage, wearing sweatpants and matching pink hoodies.
“After spending two nights in the underground car park, my parents made the decision at all costs to send my little sister and me out of Ukraine!” the legend read
‘Mom, Dad, we love you very much, take care of yourself!!! I love you my country! Ukrainians take care of your lives.
She also shared videos of the couple catching a boat to leave their homeland.
Appearing on GMB today, host Kate Garraway asked Yastremska how she ‘maybe feel strong to compete mentally, with everything that’s going on’.
She replied: “Well, when I just arrived here, I was trying to find ways to control my emotions… but you know, it’s very difficult because… my heart remains in Ukraine and my mind is fighting on the court.”
Yastremska added that she had a “responsibility” to succeed in tennis, explaining, “It’s the only thing I do really well.” It is our future.
“It’s an opportunity for us and I have to manage myself to be able to balance it.
“I know I won’t stop being nervous. I know I’m going to have a lot of emotions. But I have to, I’m trying to find a way to be a little less nervous, less emotional.
“But you know, no matter what, I’m always on the court trying…to fight for every ball and try to achieve what I really want.”
Discussing how difficult it had been to leave her parents in Ukraine, the 21-year-old said: ‘It was very difficult to leave, to leave our town, our family.
“And when we got here, we were still crying a lot, because we were so scared of what was happening in our town, we were scared for our parents, and we were very emotional.
GMB hosts Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway were impressed with the brave 21-year-old’s performance in the face of her country’s difficulties.
The player looked in tears as she described how she feels she has a responsibility to succeed with her tennis and how that inspires her to stay focused on the game.
“And our trip was super long and we were very exhausted. And it was very difficult for me to concentrate on the pitch.
“Because I was, I was thinking about the situation in our city all the time, every time you try to read a lot of news about what’s going on.”
According to Yastremska, although she has tried to keep in touch with her family, it has been very difficult as they cannot always be reached by phone as they have had to take refuge in underground areas.
But, she said, as she left the country, her father had shared some advice with her, as well as words of support.
“My dad used to tell us girls, you have to, you have to support each other, you have to stay close to each other, you have to be like one team, and we’re going to agree with the mother,” the star of the tennis revealed.
The player, who has been ranked as world number 21, arrived in France with her younger sister after leaving their parents in Odessa last week.
Yastremska let her followers know that she and her sister arrived safely in France last week, via Instagram Stories
“And you know, when we [got on the] boat, we were crying because you don’t know when you’ll see your parents next. You have so many thoughts in your head.
‘And [my] father said, “I don’t know how the war will end. And when it will end, and how it will be. You have to support each other and build your future, fight for your dreams”. ‘
Yastremska defeated Spanish qualifier Cristina Bucsa 6-2 6-3 to reach the Lyon Open quarter-finals. She had three aces in the match which only lasted 65 minutes.
She faces today the Italian Jasmine Paolini.