May 30, 2023

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Ukraine's Yastremska loses Lyon final, week after escaping Russian bombs

Ukraine’s Yastremska loses Lyon final, week after escaping Russian bombs

Ukraine‘s Dayana Yastremska fell agonisingly short of a dream WTA title in Lyon on Sunday, a week after escaping Russian bomb attacks on her home city of Odessa, but pledged to donate her prize money to support her besieged compatriots.

World number 140 Yastremska, who draped the Ukraine flag around her shoulders at every match this week, went down 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to 64th-ranked Zhang Shuai of China in the final.

“The prize money I earn here (14,500 euros for the runner-up), I’m going to give to the Ukrainian Foundation to support Ukraine,” the tearful 21-year-old, who squandered leads of 2-0 and 4-2 in the deciding set, told the crowd.

“If Ukrainian people are watching me, I want to say you guys are so strong, you have an amazing spirit, and I tried to fight for Ukraine,” she added after playing her first final since losing to Ashleigh Barty at Adelaide in 2020.

“It’s been a very tough week for me. Thanks to the public for the support. I’ve been fighting all week, not only for myself but also for my country.

“Everybody was supporting me a lot. I felt so much power from the people here.”

Yastremska arrived in Lyon last Saturday and spoke of being “woken up by bombs” when Russia invaded Ukraine, before embarking on an arduous journey to France.

She and her family had spent two nights sheltering from the attacks in an underground car park in the Black Sea port city of Odessa.

Her father and mother remained behind after saying goodbye to Yastremska and her 15-year-old sister Ivanna when they crossed the Danube by boat to reach Romania.

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Yastremska has won three WTA titles but her last was in May 2019 at Strasbourg.

It had been a rollercoaster week for the Ukrainian, who has been as high as 21 in the world rankings.

In her first round win over Ana Bogdan she had to save two match points.

Yastremska will now head to the United States where she has been awarded a wild card into next week’s prestigious Indian Wells tournament.

Eighth-seeded Zhang didn’t drop a set all week in the French city as she added a third career title to triumphs on home ground in Guangzhou in 2013 and 2017.

The 33-year-old is the first Chinese singles title winner on the WTA Tour since Zheng Saisai won at San Jose in 2019.

“Big congrats Dayana,” said Zhang. “You work so hard and it’s been such a tough time for you.

“But you are a fighter and you will surely win more titles.”