Svitolina had originally said she would not participate in the WTA Tour against players from Russia or Belarus competing under their respective flags after the invasion of Ukraine, but backtracked on her decision following Tuesday’s joint ruling by the ITF, WTA and ATP.
“It is a very, very special event for me. All the prize money that I will earn here will go to the Ukrainian army,” she said in her interview with the court. “So thank you so much for your support.
“Overall, I was just focused,” she added. “I was on a mission for my country.”
Svitolina, the number 1 seed in Monterrey and the champion of 2020, will face Bulgarian qualifier Viktoriya Tomova in the second round.
“It’s a very special atmosphere every time I play here and especially today it’s a very special game for me and a moment,” she said.
“I’m in a very sad mood, but I’m happy to be here to play tennis. It’s fun to play for you, thank you.”
At the Lyon Open, fellow Ukrainian tennis player Dayana Yastremska fell to her knees after beating Romanian Ana Bogdan 3-6 7-6 7-6 in what she called “the hardest match of my life”.
The 21-year-old, who saved two match points in the three-hour epic, fled Ukraine by boat last week after spending two nights in an underground car park with her younger sister.
Yastremska traveled to Romania and then Lyon, where she was awarded a wild card to the tournament.
“I am happy to have won for my country, but at the same time I am very sad,” she said in her court interview, with the Ukrainian flag draped over her shoulders. “My heart stays at home and my mind fights here, so it’s very hard to find the concentration, to find the balance.
“This victory is nothing compared to what is happening in my country, but I’m happy. At least I’m fighting for my country too. I’m really proud of the Ukrainians and they are real heroes. I hope everything is okay quickly finished.”