Elina Svitolina and husband Gaël Monfils are having quite a time at the French Open | CNN


Elina Svitolina came from behind to beat Storm Hunter at the French Open – just one day after watching husband Gaël Monfils win a mammoth game against Sebastián Báez.

Svitolina dropped the first set against her Australian counterpart 6-2 but stormed back in emphatic fashion winning the last two sets 3-6 1-6 to wrap up the second round win.

Monfils also dropped the opening set when he faced Báez. The Frenchman battled back and eventually won the game in five sets with a 3-6 6-3 7-5 1-6 7-5 victory in a game that lasted three hours and 47 minutes in front of a roaring home crowd.

Monfils’ game going the distance meant that Svitolina’s preparations were slightly more unusual than normal, but this didn’t impact her performance.

“I watched the whole match. I was up until midnight when the match was done and went to bed straight away,” the Ukrainian explained. “Actually was sleeping good. Had a solid seven hours of sleep, which is quite good for the grand slam.

“It gave me actually motivation to go again today. He was there for me today. Made such a big effort to come and support me, especially in a tough day like today. So really it motivated me to fight and not give up and play every point, try to put 100% effort out there,” Svitolina continued.

Gaël Monfils beat Sebastián Báez in five sets.

The pair got married on July 16, 2021, and welcomed their daughter Skaï Monfils in October 2022. Skaï is present at the French Open and Monfils dedicated his win to her. It’s also the first tournament that both mom and dad have been playing after Monfils’ previous struggles with injuries.

“First tournament for us where we are both playing at the same tournament, and Skaï is here with us in Paris as well. It’s really, really special,” Svitolina said after her win.

“So far everything is going well, and we really enjoy our time off the court together, and on the court as well, we try to be focused and play as good as we can.

“Of course, it’s really important to have a team for Skaï, who takes care of her, so then we can focus on tennis. And especially at such a big event with lots of pressure and lots of things going on, it’s important that your mind is calm about your child and then you have 100% head[ing] into the tennis.”

Aside from raising a child and competing in a tennis grand slam, Svitolina also struggles with an inescapable “heaviness” on a day-to-day basis as a result of the war in Ukraine.

“I feel anger. I feel sadness. I feel pain in my heart to see all of that. I have a few Telegram channels where I follow the news of my hometown in Odessa, of all the Ukraine, and they post the news what is happening, when the alarm is on, or where missiles landed, you know, how many missiles were hit by our Ukrainian Army, Air Force,” said the 28-year-old.

“These kind of moments I feel mixture of different feelings, but they are bad feelings. You know, they are anger, they are sadness, just heaviness. It’s like this heaviness that I have on a daily basis, and all Ukrainians have. You cannot escape from this, and this is for the past one-and-a-half years we have that in our life.”

Svitolina said she fights for Ukraine every time she steps on the court.

The world No. 192 also touched on how she uses the war as inspiration to fuel her tennis exploits.

“For me, when I step on the court, I just try to think about the fighting spirit that all of us Ukrainians have and how Ukrainians are fighting for their values, for their freedom in Ukraine. And me, I’m fighting here on my own frontline, you know,” Svitolina outlined.

“I cannot be sad. I cannot be distracted in some ways. I’m just going to lose, you know. So that’s why I remember when the war started, I was in Mexico in Monterrey, and I was very, very sad. I almost cried when I entered the court. I had, like, really heaviness in me.

“Then I thought, you know, now each time I step on the court, I’m going to go 100% out and give everything because I’m here to do something for my country. I have a flag next to my name, so I’m fighting for my country, and I’m going to do that each time I step on the court.”

Svitolina will wait to see who she faces in the third round at Roland-Garros while Monfils prepares to take on Holger Rune in the second round.

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