An Emotional Night For Svitolina Far Away From Home

Elina Svitolina (photo: Abierto GNP Seguros)

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

Elina Svitolina’s 6-2, 6-1 victory over Anastasia Potapova at the WTA 250 Abierto GNP Seguros in Monterrey, Mexico was a superb and emotional performance that lasted barely an hour.

The top seed and 2020 Monterrey tournament champion was focused from the beginning. However, as she admitted, Svitolina was on a bigger mission Tuesday evening in Mexico, far from her Ukrainian homeland.

“I was on a mission for my country,” the World No. 15 from Odessa, Ukraine said of her victory during her post-match interview on Centre Court at Club Sonoma, which seemed to be a place of temporary relief and comfort. Svitolina’s words drew loud applause from the fans.

Svitolina said she would donate her prize money earnings from the tournament to the Ukrainian army.

“It’s a special one because of what we are going through right now in Ukraine, it’s terrifying,” Svitolina added during her news conference. “It’s been six days and all the Ukrainian tennis players and Ukrainians who are there, we have been really terrified with what is happening.”

From the outset, Svitolina, whose Nike blue and yellow kit bore the colors of the Ukrainian flag, jumped out to an emphatic 4-0 double-break lead and never looked back. She broke Potapova’s serve three more times in the second set and won the final six games of the match. Svitolina finished with three aces, won 74 percent (25 of 34) of her first-serve points, converted five of serves break-point chances and saved all three break points she faced. Svitolina outpointed the Russian Potapova 60-41.

“For me, playing the match here, I’m not playing only for myself,” Svitolina added. “I’m playing for my country, I’m playing for the help of the Ukrainian army and people in need. Every victory that I’m gonna get is going to be very special.”

Next, Svitolina will face 103rd-ranked Bulgarian qualifier Viktoriya Tomova on Thursday.

“I think it’s my mission to unite our tennis community to stand with Ukraine because what we’re going through is a horrible thing for all Ukrainians,” she said.

Djokovic splits with longtime coach Vajda

Marian Vajda, an integral part of Novak Djokovic‘s team – and his life – for more than 15 years, who started working together before Roland Garros 2006, has parted with the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

The news was confirmed Tuesday by Serbian tennis writer Sasha Ozmo, reporting for Sport Klub and Tennis Majors.

The split between Vajda and the World No. 2 Djokovic was mutual and agreed upon at last year’s ATP Finals in Turin, Italy. Vajda did not accompany Djokovic to either Melbourne, where the Serbian star’s visa was cancelled and he was deported for being unvaccinated and did not compete, or last week to Dubai.

Djokovic lost to Czech Jiri Vesely in the quarterfinals, which paved the way for Daniil Medvedev to ascend to No. 1.

Because of his unvaccinated status, it’s not known when Djokovic will play again. The next tournaments he is entered for include the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. (March 10-20) and the Miami Open presented by Itaú (March 23-April 3). However, visitors to the United States are currently required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and the Indian Wells and Miami tournaments requires players to be full vaccinated as well.

During a recent BBC interview, Djokovic stated: “Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay because the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else.”

Since Hall of Famer Goran Ivanisevic was added to Djokovic’s team during Wimbledon 2019, the 56-year-old Vajda has travelled to fewer tournaments. This has allowed the Slovakia native more time to be with his family.

Going forward, Ivanisevic will become Djokovic’s full-time coach. Djokovic will retain the rest of his current team.

Stakhovsky joins the fight for Ukraine

Retired Ukrainian pro Sergiy Stakhovsky announced the decision to leave his family in Hungary to join the Ukrainian forces fighting against Russia. The 36-year-old Kyiv native spoke about his decision on ITV’s “Good Morning Britain,” Wednesday morning.

Fernandez begins Monterrey title defense with a strong start

With plenty of attention in Monterrey being given to top seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, defending Abierto GNP Seguros champion Leylah Fernandez of Canada began her title defense with a solid 6-2, 6-2 victory over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia in 68 minutes Monday evening.

Fernandez jumped out to an early double-break 4-0 lead and rolled from there. It was her first match since a first-round defeat to Maddison Inglis of Australia at the Australian Open last month.

“I am very happy to be back in Monterrey,” Fernandez said in press after her first victory of 2022. “I won my first title here; it is a very special city for me. I always had good moments here and, finally, I was able to play a game in front of the public. Listening to their support motivated me more to work hard and have fun on the court.”

Fernandez faces Zheng Qinwen of China Wednesday evening in a featured second-round match on Centre Court.

Noteworthy …

• On March 1, 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams announced the launching of Serena Ventures, a venture capital fund. She spoke about on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

• While younger sister Serena was launching her venture capital fund, Venus Williams attended the world premiere of the new Batman film at Lincoln Center in New York City.


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“Quotable …”

Words of thanks from Elina Svitolina