Ukrainian tennis star Dayana Yastremska very candidly told a reporter he probably "would not like my answers" if she honestly answered how she felt about playing Belarusian players.
On Monday, Yastremska - who won three qualifying matches to reach the main draw at Melbourne Park - defeated former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (6) 6-4 to reach the Australian Open quarterfinal. By beating Azarenka, 23-year-old Yastremska reached her maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal.
After sealing one of the most important wins of her career, Yastremska didn't shake Azarenka's hand. However, there was not anything surprising in that, considering that Ukrainian players haven't been shaking hands with Russian and Belarusian players for quite some time.
To no one's surprise, Yastremska received some war-related questions in her post-match press conference. One of the questions was how she felt about entering the court to play a Belarusian player.
"Playing against the Belarusian player? If I'm going to start talking about it, I think you're not going to like my answers so I'm just gonna say I want to skip this question," Yastremska said.
"Because I think, like, if you're asking this question, I'm sure you know how is it for us, for Ukrainians to play against Russians and Belarusian. I'm sure you know, so I don't think it's a good way to ask about this question."
Yastremska on how much her win means to the Ukrainians
Over the last two years, Ukrainian players haven't been hiding the fact that they are extra motivated to win whenever there is a Russian or a Belarusian player on the other side of the net. During these unfortunate times, for Yastremska and other Ukrainian players, beating a Russian or a Belarusian player is more than just a win.
After beating two-time Grand Slam champion Azarenka for her maiden Major quarterfinal, Yastremska admitted she believes her people will be "proud" of her. Also, Yastremska underlined it makes her satisfied knowing that she is making a positive story at this year's Australian Open.
"Well, I think they're going to be really proud of me (smiling). I'm sure they're gonna write and ask even themselves where she's been with this kind of game, like three years, the last three years," Yastremska said.
"So I think it's as well pretty unexpected unexpectable for them. And I don't know. I think they're going to be proud of me (smiling). And I'm happy to make them be proud."
Yastremska is now playing with less pressure and more relaxed
Yastremska, who will be turning 24 in May, revealed she was pressuring herself in different ways to make strong results. Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine started, Yastremska was putting pressure on her to do well because she had high goals. After Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Yastremska added more pressure on her back because she then also wanted to do well for her country.
Last year, Yastremska didn't have much success on the main stage but she did have some success on the lower-level tournaments. At the start of the 2024 season, Yastremska played her first tournament of the year at the Brisbane International, where she won two qualifying matches before losing to Daria Saville in the first round.
After an early Brisbane loss, Yastremska went to Melbourne, where she won three qualifying matches to seal a main draw spot. After successfully making it past the Brisbane qualifying, Yastremska kicked off her main draw campaign by upsetting reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova. Since then, Yastremska has won three more matches to reach the Australian Open quarterfinal.
"I was putting a lot of pressure on myself in different ways. In the way that it's the war and I have to show better results, you know, for Ukraine. And I wasn't playing just for myself in the beginning," Yastremska explained.
"Then I was putting pressure on myself that before, like, when I was younger, I was much better than I am right now. In many ways, it's too long, you know, if I will say every pressure that I was putting on myself.
"But now I decided that from this year no more pressure, no more, like, high expectations for myself. Just be the way you are, and we will see how it's gonna go."
For a place in the Australian semifinal, Yastremska will be battling against world No. 50 Linda Noskova. When Yastremska and Noskova meet at Melbourne Park, it is going to be their first meeting.
While Noskova is certainly a favorable matchup for Yastremska, the 23-year-old Ukrainian definitely won't be expecting to have an easy job against the 19-year-old Czech. Noskova has also been playing great at this year's Australian Open so far, having shocked world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the third round.
It remains to be seen if Yastremska can beat Noskova and make the Australian Open semifinal.