A Heroic Comeback In Lyon Makes Yastremska A Winner Around The World

Dayana Yastremska (photo: WTA Tour video)

LYON/WASHINGTON, March 2, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

By the end of Dayana Yastremska‘s three-plus-hour, three-set first-round victory at the Open 6ème Sens – Métropole de Lyon in France, the 21-year-old Ukrainian was happy that she had won for her war-torn country of Ukraine. But she was sad, too.

Talk about showing bravery under dress. Just four days after fleeing her hometown of Odessa as Ukraine came under invasion from Russia, the 140th-ranked wild card Yastremska saved a pair of match points against her opponent, Romania’s 97th-ranked Ana Bogdan, and went on to win on her fourth match-point opportunity for a 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (7) triumph.

After spending two nights in an underground car park fearful of Russian bomb attacks, Yastremska and her younger sister, Ivanna, 15, were forced to flee Odessa, leaving their parents behind. It wasn’t an easy decision. They boarded a boat to safety in Romania, then flew to Lyon in time for the tournament. The sisters were given a wild card into the doubles event and lost their first-round match in straight sets Monday. It’s understandable that they were mentally elsewhere.

Then a day later, after showing unbelievable fighting spirit, Yastremska broke down after she secured victory at the three-hour and five-minute mark of the Tuesday evening match at Palais des sports de Gerland in Lyon, France. After collapsing to the ground, exhausted but proud, Yastremska picked herself up and strode to the net to meet Bogdan. The two shared a warm, lovely embrace and exchanged polite conversation. There was solidarity at the net. That’s the beauty of the sport of tennis when it unites competitors.

“This young woman has just earned herself thousands more fans around the world,” said broadcaster Candy Reid, who described Yastremska’s triumph for a worldwide TV audience. “What a mature performance.”

Indeed, this is the kind of match that undoubtedly will stay in Yastremska’s heart for the rest of her life. It goes far beyond the statistics that overall favored the Ukrainian despite being outpointed by Bogdan 125-123.

Yastremska overcame early breaks in both the second and third sets. She saved a match point in the second set, down 5-6, by hitting a forehand winner. Later, in the third-set tie-break, Yastremska squandered a triple-match-point opportunity when she dropped four straight points. However, the Ukrainian never gave up hope. After saving Bogdan’s second match point with a forehand winner, soon, she gained her fourth match point with a forehand winner to push ahead 8-7. Finally, Yastremska won after Bogdan netted her unplayable serve that she placed down the middle.

“Yes, definitely I’m going to remember this match,” Yastremska said during her on-court post-match interview. A blue and yellow Ukrainian flag was draped around her shoulders. “Yes, I just came from the country where there is a war and there is my family. You know, it was very sad emotionally and I wish I could be at home, there in my country. My father made a decision to bring me here and I want to say thanks to the director of the tournament for the wild card. It’s a big opportunity for me.

“I don’t know what to say. I’m happy that I won for my country and at the same time, I’m very sad. I want to say thanks for the support. When I arrived, a lot of friends and people texted me with their support and with help. It was amazing today. Thank you.”

During her brief but emotional interview, Yastremska tried her best to fight back her tears but it wasn’t always easy.

“The conditions [for playing] are very difficult because I would say very simple: My heart stays at home. My mind is fighting here. So, it is very difficult to find the concentration, to find the balance and everything,” Yastremska explained. “This win, compared with what’s going on in my country, is nothing. I’m happy at least that I’m also fighting for my country. I’m really proud of the Ukrainians. They’re really heroes. I really hope everything is going to finish soon. I don’t know what [else] to say.”

Although, at times, it was hard to find the words to describe her feelings, Yastremska did an admirable job of conveying her mindset. Her hard-fought victory was indeed heartfelt.

Next, Yastremska is through to Thursday’s second round where she will play 139th-ranked Spanish qualifier Cristina Bucsa, who upset 37th-ranked fourth seed Alizé Cornet, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, on Monday.