PARIS -- After the war broke out in Ukraine last spring, Lesia Tsurenko spoke to reporters about suffering panic attacks. She felt guilty about traveling the world to play a game while war ravaged her homeland. The idea of stopping her career to return home to volunteer was constantly on her mind. 

"I never played for money," Tsurenko told reporters. "Never in my life was I thinking about money going on court and thinking about how big prize money I get if I win.

"But actually, I have to say that I had a conversation with [former ATP player] Alex Dolgopolov, which really helped me. He told me, 'Look, we will do our job here, and you continue your job, and you continue what you can do the best.' He told me that, you know, we need money.

"I said, OK. So I continue playing."

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On Monday, Tsurenko will face down World No.1 Iga Swiatek for the third time in her career. Her past two meetings with Swiatek were played on clay. Swiatek took them both by identical 6-2, 6-0 scores. 

"Probably one of the biggest challenges on tour right now," Tsurenko said. "I just had a match against her in Rome, which I think it was good just to feel how she's playing and to feel the speed of her shots.

"It was definitely a good experience for me. It was a good lesson for me, so I will try to play better this time."

Tsurenko credits increasing her work with her psychologist to help cope with the stress, worry and tension she carried on a daily basis. 

"So for me, it was a learning process how to continue playing in these conditions and how to try to go on court and with some bigger goals," she said.

"I want to earn as more as I can to donate as more as I can. This is actually a bigger thing that I have in my mind when I decided that I will continue playing and I will be on tour.

"And often when I have tough moments in my match, I also remind myself that I'm from Ukraine, that I'm Ukrainian, and I'm a part of the strongest nation, and I have to be proud, and I am proud that I'm Ukrainian."

After starting the year at No.137, Tsurenko has halved her ranking to No.66 going into Paris. After stunning 2021 champion Barbora Krejcikova 6-2, 6-4 in the first round, she booked her place in the fourth round with a dominant 6-1, 6-1 win over 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu. 

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Tsurenko's win puts two proud Ukrainians into the Round of 16 in Paris. She joins Elina Svitolina, who has been the standard-bearer for Ukrainian tennis for nearly a decade. Coming off her title run in Strasbourg, Svitolina is back in the fourth round of a Slam for the first time since becoming a mother. 

"Elina is such an inspiration," Tsurenko said. "In general, the way she was playing before pregnancy, it was unbelievable. Some matches, her defense. She did so many great results.

"And the main thing is that she's a great fighter, so it was always for me, I watch her matches to take a little bit of that energy and to learn something.

"Definitely it's great to have someone like her, a great champion in tennis, in Ukrainian tennis history."

Along with having a cause and inspiration, Tsurenko says the long-standing elbow injury she's had to manage over her career has improved. Over the years she has scoured the earth for a solution to the chronic inflammation. Doctors told her the only cure was time and patience. She admits that, on some level, she was just praying for a miracle. 

"I made a good break at the end of the last year," Tsurenko said. "We worked a lot on balancing the whole body, and it worked. I still have pain, but it's so much less pain, and some days are pain-free, but not too many.

"My elbow is recovering, which is good. I can have a little bit more pain in the evening, but when I wake up, it goes down, which is great. I can play, and I can practice.

"Tennis is the love of my life, so I'm really enjoying being here."