'So inspiring': Ukrainian tennis fairytale captures world's attention

Seen here, Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska shows her love to fans after booking a place in the Lyon WTA final.
The tennis world is rallying around Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska and her fairytale run in Lyon. Pic: Getty

Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska is being hailed around the world after battling through extraordinary adversity to keep her fairytale tennis run alive.

Just one week after leaving her parents behind in Ukraine and fleeing to France with her younger sister, Yastremska proclaimed she could "deal with everything" after booking her place in the Lyon WTA final.

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Yastremska's incredible run in France has captured the world's attention, with the 21-year-old motivated by the crisis unfolding in her homeland and the love of her country.

The 21-year-old, with a Ukraine flag draped over her shoulders when she walked on court and playing in her country's blue and yellow, beat Romanian second seed Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4 to progress to the Lyon decider.

In what will be her first final since losing to Ash Barty at Adelaide in 2020, Yastremska will face China's 64th-ranked Zhang Shuai, who defeated France's Caroline Garcia 6-2, 7-5.

Yastremska and her sister were forced to flee their hometown Odessa after the city was bombed by Russian forces during President Putin's invasion.

The images of the two sisters that were posted to social media made headlines around the world, with Yastremska dedicating each and every one of her victories to her parents and her country.

Pictured here, Dayana Yastremska and her younger sister after fleeing war-torn Ukraine for France.
Dayana Yastremska and her sister were sent by their parents to flee war-torn Ukraine to the safety of France. Pic: Instagram

After beating Cirstea to book her place in the Lyon final, the defiant Ukrainian said she refused to let her spirit be broken.

"I can deal with everything. My spirit is pretty strong right now - that's why I think I can deal with everything," Yastremska said after the match.

"I'm Ukrainian, and Ukrainian people are very strong. You can see that now during the war," added the former World No.21, who dropped to her knees at the moment of victory.

"Every win from now on goes to my country. Compared to what's going on, it has no big meaning."

Yastremska's incredible journey has been a source of inspiration for fans, who've flooded social media with praise for the 21-year-old.

Dayana Yastremska escaped Russian bomb attacks on Ukraine

Yastremska arrived in Lyon last Saturday and spoke of being "woken up by bombs" when Russia invaded Ukraine, before embarking on an arduous journey to France.

She and her family had spent two nights sheltering from the attacks in an underground car park in the Black Sea port city of Odessa.

Her father and mother remained behind after saying goodbye to Yastremska and her 15-year-old sister Ivanna when they crossed the Danube by boat to reach Romania.

"I need to think what I feel right now. I feel in the clouds, I don't really realise I'm in the final," Yastremska told the crowd after a tense semi-final which saw her squander three match points and get broken in the ninth game of the decider by 30th-ranked Cirstea.

"In the third set, when I had match points then lost the game, I was crazy, I thought, 'OK, I'm done, I've lost, because I don't have any more power'. Then everybody supported me and I felt like you can do it. Because of you I am here still winning."

Yastremska has won three WTA titles but her last was in May 2019 at Strasbourg.

"I read a lot of news every day," she added. "Sometimes during the night I get messages from groups with the news; sometimes I wake up and read what's going on, especially with my city. So I wouldn't say I sleep here really good. I wake up pretty tired in the morning."

Her win on Saturday came the day after Ukrainian number one Elina Svitolina was knocked out of the Monterrey WTA tournament by Colombia's Maria Camila Osorio in the quarter-finals.

Svitolina pledged to dedicate her prize money at the event to the Ukraine military.

with agencies

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