Svitolina of Ukraine beats Potapova of Russia in WTA event

Elina Svitolina
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MEXICO CITY — Elina Svitolina put on the yellow and blue colors of Ukraine and beat Anastasia Potapova of Russia 6-2, 6-1 in the opening round of the Monterrey Open, deciding she could do more for her country by playing than boycotting the match.

Top-seeded Svitolina earlier said she wouldn’t play against Potapova in Mexico or against any Russian or Belarusian opponents until the International Tennis Federation and the men’s and women’s tennis tours barred competitors from those countries using any national symbols, flags or anthems.

The tennis governing bodies issued a statement confirming that Russian and Belarusian players will still be allowed to compete at the top level, but without national flags.

“Today it was a very special match for me,” the 27-year-old Svitolina 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,” she said. “From the beginning, it was important to be ready for anything that comes my way.”

Svitolina is a two-time Grand Slam semifinalist with 16 career tour-level singles titles who has been ranked as high as No. 3 and is currently No. 15.

“All the prize money that I’m going to earn is going to be for the Ukrainian army,” said Svitolina, who won this tournament in 2020. The Monterrey Open has $31,000 in prize money for the champion.

Svitolina, who broke serve in the first and third games on the way to a lopsided win over Potapova in 64 minutes, will play against Viktoriya Tomova in the second round.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its sixth day, with a huge convoy of Russian tanks and armored vehicles on a road to the capital, Kyiv, and fighting intensifying there and in other big cities.

Russia shelled several key sites in Kyiv and in the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, killing at least 11 people and wounding dozens of others, Ukrainian officials said.

In her social media post, Svitolina said her objective in demanding tennis follow the International Olympic Committee’s lead and insist that players from Russia and Belarus are only identified as “neutral athletes” was not against individual competitors.

“I do not blame any of the Russian athletes,” Svitolina wrote. “They are not responsible for the invasion of our motherland.”

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

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The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.