(Reuters) – Dayana Yastremska’s unexpected run to the Lyon Open final ended in defeat on Sunday but the Ukrainian said she would donate her prize money towards aid efforts following Russia’s invasion of her country 10 days ago.
Yastremska, who has won three WTA titles, fled Ukraine with her younger sister with help from their parents just days after the invasion began on Feb. 24. She said she spent two nights in an underground parking lot before they fled.
The 21-year-old took the first set against Zhang Shuai before losing 3-6 6-3 6-4 to the eighth seed, who came back from 4-2 down in the decider to clinch the title.
“The prize money I earn here I’m going to give to the Ukrainian Foundation to support Ukraine,” Yastremska, who draped her country’s flag around her shoulders, said at the trophy presentation.
“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’.
“I want to say thanks to every single person for standing by Ukraine.”
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation”.
There was, however, some good news for Yastremska with the organisers of the March 9-20 WTA 1000 tournament in Indian Wells announcing that she was handed a wildcard into the main draw.
Italian Camila Giorgi’s withdrawal paved the way for four-time major winner Naomi Osaka to move into the main draw at Indian Wells as a direct entry and freeing up a wildcard which was handed to Yastremska.
“My beloved Ukraine, I really wanted to win this one for you,” Yastremska, a former world number 21 who is currently ranked 103rd, said on Twitter following her defeat in Lyon.
“I gave my absolute best throughout this week because that’s what Ukrainians do!”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru and Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Pritha Sarkar and Stephen Coates)