Dayana Yastremska had not won a tennis match since playing Simona Halep of Romania in two tight sets in Rome last fall. An exonerated Yastremska made a triumphant return to action at the inaugural Hamburg European Open on July 8 after she defeated Magdalena Frech of Poland 7-6(5), 6-1 in her first match since she was cleared of an anti-doping rule violation charge in June of this year.
“I am very happy and excited to be back on the tour,” Yastremska wrote in a correspondence interview with Tennis.com while playing in Hamburg, Germany. “It’s been a long time. I’m hungry for tennis, and I’ve been training hard for this return.”
Back in January, Yastremska had revealed that a urine sample she provided at the end of last year had tested positive for a metabolite of mesterolone, an anabolic steroid.
The 21-year-old emphatically asserted her innocence, repeatedly appealing the provisional suspension which kept her off the tour through the first six months of the 2021 season. She even flew to Melbourne in hope of competing at the 2021 Australian Open.
Yastremska was ultimately found to bear no fault by an independent tribunal. The decision was announced immediately prior to the start of the Wimbledon Championships, leaving the former junior finalist unable to participate at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in 2021.
“I was relieved,” she said of the ruling. “I was confident, but still, it was a huge pressure. So, at the end, I’m happy and relieved to be able to play again.”
Ranked as high as No. 21 in the world in January 2020, Yastremska has won three WTA titles and reached the second week of Wimbledon in her 2019 main-draw debut. The subsequent COVID-19 lockdown saw her enjoy the highs of starring in a public service announcement in pandemic health protocols and dabbling in music, while also suffering the lows that came with a positive test for COVID-19 after arriving in Dubai for her December pre-season schedule.
She took a tunnel vision approach to her provisional suspension, spending the time in Odesa practicing nearly every day with new coach Jan Pochter. Pochter had previously worked with Yastremska during the 2019 Asian swing and was on hand for her Hamburg comeback.
“His support has been important to me, and my family was always with me during this time,” Yastremska said. “They were supportive all the way through, as were many people close to me: my agent and my fans.”
The No. 1 seed in Hamburg, Yastremska navigated a tense opening set, 7-6(4), and an easier second one, 6-4, bringing all the firepower for which she has become known.
After scoring her first win since reaching the round of 16 at the Internazionali BHL d’Italia last fall, she appeared ready to put this unfortunate incident behind her.
“I want to play and prove again that I belong here. I trained a lot during my time off the court. I’m ready to get back, play and win tennis matches again. Today, that’s all that matters to me.”
She defeated Sara Errani of Italy in the quarterfinal by scores of 7-6(4), 6-4. Yastremska then lost to eventual tournament champion Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania 6-2, 1-6, 4-6 in semifinal action.