Life story: Dayana Yastremska jumps from wardrobe into tennis glory

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Dayana Yastremska is through to her first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open. Did you know that the Ukrainian was born with her feet pointing inward and started playing tennis at the age of five as her grandfather strived to channel her hyperactivity? Read on for more interesting details about the 23-year-old’s life and tennis journey.

Dayana Yastremska

Extremely energetic child

Born in Odessa, Ukraine, in May 2000, Yastremska describes herself as “unpredictable, stubborn, and energetic.” As explained by her family in the WTA’s “My Story” series, during her childhood, she had an abundance of energy, leading her to explore various hobbies such as tennis, dancing, gymnastics, swimming, and singing. The singing lessons proved useful as she showcased her musical talents by releasing a very good pop song in 2020.

An interesting detail about Yastremska’s early life is that she was born with her feet naturally pointing inward, necessitating the use of certain casts to straighten her legs. The corrective treatment proved to be successful, and as a result, Yastremska’s legs have no traces of the initial physical anomaly.

A jump from a high wardrobe led to her tennis career

Yastremska’s introduction to tennis came from her grandfather Ivan, who decided to channel her boundless energy by bringing her to the tennis court after witnessing her daring leap from a two-meter-high wardrobe. This pivotal moment marked the beginning of her tennis journey.

At the age of 11, Yastremska diversified her training by taking up boxing, a decision influenced by her father’s belief in its importance for tennis. He recognized that boxing could enhance attributes such as attention, focus, rhythm, and character, contributing to her holistic development as an athlete.

3 WTA titles and counting

So far in her career, Yastremska has won three WTA titles — Hua Hin and Strasbourg in 2019, and Hong Kong in 2018. Already as a teenager, she reached a career-high ranking of No.21 in January 2020.

This fortnight, she’s reached her maiden Grand Slam semifinals at Melbourne Park, becoming the first qualifier since 1978 to advance to the last four at the Australian Open. The Ukrainian faces China’s Zheng Qinwen in the semifinals and is now two match wins away from emulating Emma Raducanu, who made history as the first qualifier to clinch a major title with her triumph at the 2021 US Open.

Doping ban struggles

Exactly three years ago, Yastremska faced a major setback when she received a provisional ban in due to a failed doping test. She maintained her innocence and denied any wrongdoing. Fortunately, after six months, the suspension was lifted, as an independent tribunal accepted that her positive test resulted from contamination.

Dayana Yastremska with younger sister Ivanna

Younger sister Ivanna also plays tennis

Dayana Yastremska has seven years old younger sister, Ivanna. Ivanna made her WTA main-draw debut at the 2022 WTA Lyon Open, participating in the doubles draw alongside her elder sister. Their partnership continued as they teamed up once again for the Indian Wells tournament later in the year.

War-torn homeland

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine started, Yastremska was in her home town of Odessa. The tennis player spent two days in an underground garage, before managing to leave the country together with her sister in February 2022. They fled via Romania to Lyon, France, while leaving their parents behind in Odessa. Just over a week after fleeing the war, the Ukrainian went all the way to the final of the Lyon Open.

After winning her quarterfinal against Linda Noskova at the 2024 Australian Open, Yastremska demonstrated her solidarity with Ukrainian fighters by writing a message of support on the camera lens. She dedicated her win to her homeland, saying: “I think it’s my mission here. I’m just trying to give the signal to Ukraine that I’m really proud of it. They really deserve huge respect.”

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