WATCH: Yastremska hadn't won a match since playing Simona Halep through two tight sets in Rome last fall.

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An exonerated Dayana Yastremska made a triumphant return to action at the inaugural Hamburg European Open on Thursday, defeating Magdalena Freçh, 7-6 (5), 6-1, in what was her first match since the Ukrainian was cleared of an Anti-Doping Violation charge in June.

“I am very happy and excited to be back on the tour,” she wrote in an exclusive interview with TENNIS.com, conducted via correspondence. “It’s been a long time. I'm hungry for tennis, and I’ve been training hard for this return.”

The world No. 38 revealed in January that a urine sample she provided at the end of last year had tested positive for a metabolite of mesterolone, an anabolic steroid.

Emphatic in her assertions of innocence, the 21-year-old repeatedly appealed the provisional suspension that kept her off tour through the first six months of the 2021 season—even flying to Melbourne in the hopes of competing at the Australian Open.

“I missed being able to compete and play against the best tennis players in the world. I never took it for granted but watching the tour without being able to compete was the worst feeling.”

Yastremska was ultimately found to bear No Fault by an independent tribunal. The decision came down just before the start of the Wimbledon Championships, rendering the former junior finalist unable to compete at the All England Club.

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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. Dayana Yastremska

“I was relieved,” she said of the ruling. “I was confident but still, it was a huge pressure. So, at the end, I'm just happy and relieved to be able to play again.”

Ranked as high as world No. 21 in January of 2020, Yastremska has already 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 PSA on pandemic health protocols and dabbling in music, and also endure the lows that came with testing positive for the novel coronavirus after arriving in Dubai for her December pre-season.

Taking on a tunnel vision approach to her provisional suspension, she spent the time at home in Odessa practicing—in her words—"nearly every day" with new coach Jan Pochter.

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Pochter, who previously worked with Yastremska during the 2019 Asian swing, is on hand for her comeback this week.

“His support has been important to me, and my family was always with me during this time,” notes Yastremska. “They were supportive all the way through as did many people close to me: my agent, and my fans.”

As the top seed in Hamburg, Yastremska navigated a tense opening set to cruise through the second and brought all the firepower for which she’s become known. After scoring her first win since reaching the round of 16 at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia last fall, she appears more than 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.”