Svitolina of Ukraine beats Potapova of Russia in WTA event

Elina Svitolina put on the yellow and blue colors of Ukraine and beat Anastasia Potapova of Russia 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday in the opening round of the Monterrey Open.

Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, left, and Anastasia Potapova of Russia shake hands after their match.   -  AP

After her sport's governing bodies agreed to the changes she demanded, Elina Svitolina put on the yellow and blue colors of Ukraine and beat Anastasia Potapova of Russia 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday in the opening round of the Monterrey Open.

Top-seeded Svitolina earlier said she wouldn't play against Potapova in Mexico or against any Russian or Belarusian opponents until the WTA, ATP and the International Tennis Federation barred competitors from those countries using any national symbols, flags or anthems.

The tennis governing bodies issued a statement on Tuesday confirming that Russian and Belarusian players will still be allowed to play on the top-tier men's and women's tennis tours, but without national flags.

“Today it was a very special match for me," the 27-year-old Svitolina said. "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,” she said. “From the beginning, it was important to be ready for anything that comes my way.”

Svitolina is a two-time Grand Slam semifinalist with 16 career tour-level singles titles who has been ranked as high as No. 3 and is currently No. 15.

“All the prize money that I´m going to earn is going to be for the Ukrainian army,” said Svitolina, who won this tournament in 2020. The Monterrey Open has $31,000 in prize money for the champion.

Russia banned from team events, players can still compete on ATP, WTA Tours

Svitolina had service breaks in the first and third games to take the first set and then added breaks in the third, fifth and seventh games in the second to win the match in 64 minutes.

The 27-year-old Svitolina, who won this tournament in 2020, will play against Viktoriya Tomova in the second round.

The Russian military assault on Ukraine was into its sixth day.

In her social media post on Monday, Svitolina said her objective in demanding tennis follow the International Olympic Committee's lead and insist that players from Russia and Belarus are only identified as “neutral athletes" was not against individual competitors.

“I do not blame any of the Russian athletes,” Svitolina wrote. “They are not responsible for the invasion of our motherland.”

Svitolina is a two-time Grand Slam semifinalist with 16 career tour-level singles titles who has been ranked as high as No. 3 and is currently No. 15.

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