After her sport’s governing bodies agreed to the changes she demanded, Elina Svitolina put on the yellow and blue colours of the Ukraine and beat Anastasia Potapova of Russia 6-2 6-1 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 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.
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 is into its sixth day.
“Today it was a very special match for me,” the world No.15 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. From the beginning, it was important to be ready for anything that comes my way.”
Svitolina is a two-time grand slam semi-finalist with 16 career tour-level singles titles and has been ranked as high as No.3.
“All the prizemoney that I’m going to earn is going to be for the Ukrainian army,” said Svitolina.
“I do not blame any of the Russian athletes. They are not responsible for the invasion of our motherland.”
The Monterrey Open has $31,000 in prizemoney for the champion.