DAYANA YASTREMSKA was forced to spend 48 hours hiding in an underground car park to shelter from Russian bombs.
But now she is rewriting history by reaching the Australian Open semi-finals as a qualifier.
Part-time pop star Yastremska, 23, has enjoyed a simply superb run Down Under after battling through three three-set matches to book her place in the main draw.
She then stunned No7 seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova in less than hour in round one before also seeing off No27 seed Emma Navarro, No18 seed Victoria Azarenka and Iga Swiatek’s conqueror Linda Noskova on her way to reaching the final four.
The world No93 will face Qinwen Zheng, the No12 seed, with a maiden Grand Slam final on the line for both women.
Yastremska is already setting records as the first qualifier to reach the women’s semi-finals of the Australian Open since 1978.
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And after already bettering her previous best major result – a fourth-round exit at Wimbledon in 2019 – she is now trying to emulate Emma Raducanu as the only other qualifier to win a Grand Slam.
Yastremska is always quick to thank her parents for her success – she even has a tattoo in dedication to her mother and mental coach Marina who is with her in Melbourne – while also remembering and being motivated by the reality of the tragic ongoing war in her homeland.
After beating Noskova to reach the semis, she wrote on the TV camera lens: “I’m proud of our fighting people from Ukraine.”
And Yastremska said in an emotional message to her inspirational compatriots defending the country: “They really deserve a huge respect.
“I always try to write something for Ukraine, about Ukraine
“I think it’s my mission here. I’m just trying to give the signal to Ukraine that I’m really proud of it.”
Dayana and her younger sister Ivanna fled Odesa when Vladimir Putin ordered the barbaric invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
They had sheltered from the Russian bombs for two days when the siblings’ parents Alexander, a former volleyball player, and Marina dedicated to send them away to safety.
Part-time pop star
SHE could have been a gymnast or a swimmer before choosing tennis – but Dayana Yastremska also has a side hustle in the music industry.
The Ukrainian launched her singing career during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Her first track, Thousands Of Me, was released in May 2020 – and three months later it was followed by dance hit Favourite Track.
And during her incredible 2024 Australian Open run, Yastremska teased that a third single was imminent.
She said: “In February I hope that one new song will come out. It’s gonna be three of us, three different countries. We got together and we made a nice song. I’m not going to talk much about it. You’re going to hear it soon, I hope.”
The girls waved goodbye to their mum and dad from a boat as they escaped to France – and were not reunited again for months.
A heartbreaking Instagram post at the time showed Dayana sat comforting Ivanna and hugging family members as they prepared to leave with her tennis bag.
Yastremska wrote: “After spending two nights in the underground parking, my parents made a decision at any cost to send me and my little sister out of Ukraine.
“Mom, Dad, we love you very much, take care of yourself!!! I love you my country! Ukrainians take care of your lives.”
Dayana and Ivanna, also a tennis player, took refuge in France.
Incredibly, just nine days after sharing the emotional images on social media, Yastremska reached the final of the Lyon Open as a wildcard.
That was the fifth and most recent WTA final of her career so far – winning three titles.
Yastremska added: “When I was younger I had to sacrifice a lot of things but now I’m not regretting it.
“I have to say a big thank you to my parents because if they didn’t push me in the right moment then I don’t think I’d have the life I have right now.
Mum’s emergency eye surgery
DAYANA YASTREMSKA reached the third round at the Australian Open on her main-draw debut in 2019, losing comprehensively to Serena Williams 6-2 6-1.
However, her tournament was overshadowed by a freak accident involving her mother Marina.
Dayana’s mum was holding a champagne bottle in Melbourne when it suddenly and unexpectedly exploded.
And the damage was so severe that Marina required emergency eye surgery to save her sight.
In a classy gesture, Aussie Open tournament director Craig Tiley covered the cost of the operation.
“I think in tennis, it’s important to have family close to you. When the war started, I was travelling half the year just with my sister, and my parents were at home.”
It could have been very different for Yastremska, though, who was introduced to tennis by her grandfather when she was five.
She loved gymnastics and swimming as a child – but opted to pursue tennis from the age of 12.
A talented junior player, Yastremska reached the Wimbledon girls’ final in 2016 and two years later broke into the world’s top 100 in the senior rankings for the first time as an 18-year-old.
She peaked at No22 in 2019 but has slipped right down since – not helped by being forced to miss the first six months of the 2021 season due to a provisional drugs ban until eventually getting her name cleared.
However, as well as boosting her £2.5million career earnings, Yastremska’s sensational and surprise Australian Open streak will see her propel right up into the top 30 once again.