‘I’m playing for my country’ says Elina Svitolina after beating Russian opponent in Monterrey

World number 15 Elina Svitolina dedicated her win over Russia’s Anastasia Potapova to the Ukrainian army and revealed she wanted to unite the sport of tennis behind her nation.

Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, Svitolina had initially refused to play against opponents from Russia or Belarus. 

The 27-year-old later relented after the sport's governing body announced that players from the two nations would be able to compete under a neutral flag.

Svitolina powered to a comfortable 6-2 6-1 victory to book her place in the last 16 stage of the Monterrey Open in Mexico.

After the match, the Ukrainian number one revealed why she decided to make the U-turn saying: "I had a couple of meetings with the WTA and I was happy they answered the two things we wanted, the neutral flag and suspension of tournaments, so everything was done and that's why I was on court tonight.

"It's a special win, because what we are going through right now in Ukraine is terrifying. It's been six days that we have been really struggling. All the Ukraine tennis players and Ukrainians in general have been really terrified.

Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in action

"For me, I'm not playing only for myself, I'm playing for my country. I'm playing for the help of the Ukrainian army and people in need, so this victory is very special. I'm playing for all Ukrainians.

"I think it's my mission to unite our tennis community to stand with Ukraine, to help Ukraine, because what we're going through is a horrible thing for all Ukrainians.

"That is my mission. That's why I'm here. That's why I'm playing for my country and doing my best to use my platform to try to invite people to support Ukraine."

Svitolina will take on Bulgaria's Viktoriya Tomova in the next round of the tournament.

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