Elina Svitolina: Mentally I feel safer in Ukraine than anywhere else

By Sports Desk June 28, 2023

Elina Svitolina makes a startling admission about her trips home to Ukraine.

The former world number three is discussing visiting her troubled homeland and how it fits in with life as a new mother.

Her husband, fellow tennis player Gael Monfils, is, she reveals, “really worried” about her safety.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Elina Monfils (@elisvitolina)


But Svitolina told the PA news agency: “Of course it’s unsafe because the country’s in a state of war. I have to plan it really well with the safety measures and be careful always. But mentally I feel safer in Ukraine than anywhere else in the world.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine coincided with the early stages of Svitolina’s pregnancy – baby Skai was born in October – and she was absent from the match court for a year.

As one of Ukraine’s most high-profile sportspeople, the hiatus gave her an opportunity to dive fully into doing what she could to support her compatriots.

Alongside family snaps and pictures of her on-court exploits, Svitolina’s Instagram feed features images of her highlighting the heartbreaking damage caused to Ukraine and in meetings with president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Elina Monfils (@elisvitolina)


Along with former Ukraine footballer Andriy Shevchenko, the 28-year-old is an ambassador for United24, the country’s official fundraising platform, while her own foundation, set up to support young tennis players, has widened its remit to provide relief for Ukrainian refugees.

Former boxer Vitali Klitschko made the switch from sport to politics and has a prominent role in Ukraine as mayor of Kyiv, but Svitolina is content with using her sporting profile to help her country.

“I’ve been quite interested in politics, and especially this time when I was pregnant, I have lots of friends who have different positions in Ukrainian politics and many friends as well who know a lot about it,” she said.

“But I never really wanted to go that way. I just want to be aware what is happening in my country, to learn and to understand how we can help at different levels for the people.

“I’m really happy with the position I have right now, using my platform, using my voice in every possible way through sports. This is my way and I feel I’m in the right place, and I want to use it as much as possible to help people.”

Next week sees Svitolina return to Wimbledon, where her best performance was a run to the semi-finals in 2019.

Svitolina’s ranking was not high enough to earn her direct entry into the championships but the All England Club awarded her a wild card.

She will hope to make a similar impression to her emotional French Open return, where she followed up a WTA Tour title in Strasbourg by reaching the quarter-finals to propel her back into the top 100.

“For sure it was a great step forward for me,” said Svitolina, who only returned to the tour in April.

“I played really well in Strasbourg, Roland Garros was a great run for me, so I’m really happy I could find again this fighting spirit, playing well under pressure. Hopefully I can build on that. I’m really motivated to go back on the practice court and find again my good game and my good mindset.”

Svitolina will hope, also, that the Wimbledon crowd are more generous should she face a Russian or Belarusian player after she was booed in Paris for sticking to the Ukrainian position of not shaking hands with opponents from the two aggressor nations.

She knows she has work to do on grass, which is not such a natural surface for her, and her first match in Birmingham last week ended in a one-sided loss to Czech teenager Linda Fruhvirtova.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Elina Monfils (@elisvitolina)


Svitolina now has to juggle training with life as a mother and managing the conflicting feelings of spending time away from Skai.

“It’s not easy, especially a performance like (against Fruhvirtova), it makes you feel not great,” she says.

“But me and Gael decided it’s going to be a better way for her as well to not travel so much because it’s very draining travelling, different zones. She will be coming to London if we both play there so it will be nice to spend some time together.

“I think the hardest thing is for sure being away from the baby. Also finding the mindset again, playing matches. Physically I feel I’m there and I’m hitting fine but the mindset of being in the match and being focused from the start until the end, this has been the most challenging to me.”


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Elina Monfils (@elisvitolina)


Always on her mind as well will be Ukraine and Svitolina is already thinking of when she might be able to return to her home city of Odesa.

“I’m looking to go back home in the near future,” she says. “I don’t know exactly when, maybe in a few months, maybe half a year. Obviously the tennis season is packed with tournaments but, as soon as I have the opportunity, I will definitely plan to go there.

“I want to see my grandmother, who is there, my dad was there as well for a couple of weeks. And just to see my friends, to go back to my home. I really miss my country and especially what is now happening, lots of damage to a lot of the cities that mean a lot to me.”

Related items

  • Emma Raducanu records impressive victory over Angelique Kerber in Stuttgart Emma Raducanu records impressive victory over Angelique Kerber in Stuttgart

    Emma Raducanu claimed an emphatic 6-2 6-1 win over former two-time champion Angelique Kerber in the last 32 of the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart.

    Fresh from helping Great Britain reach the finals of the Billie Jean Cup at the weekend, Raducanu continued her promising form on clay by breezing past the home favourite.

    Both Raducanu and Kerber were playing as wild cards in Stuttgart, with the Briton tumbling down the rankings after time out to undergo three surgeries.

    Meanwhile former world number one Kerber only recently returned from 18 months out on maternity leave.

    Raducanu got off to a flying start by breaking Kerber in the opening game and despite an immediate response from the German, the 2021 US Open champion took control and claimed the first set in 41 minutes.

    Kerber was broken again at the start of the second set and although she managed to haul back level, Raducanu stepped up a gear and shrugged off a brief visit from the trainer to wrap up an emphatic win.

    Also in Stuttgart, reigning US Open champion Coco Gauff rallied from 4-2 down in the deciding set to overcome fellow American and world number 134 Sachia Vickery 6-3 4-6 7-5.

    And Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur finally snapped a five-game losing streak to beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 2-6 6-3 7-6 (1), telling reporters: “I thought about withdrawing so many times because I couldn’t take another loss.”

    In Rouen, Naomi Osaka’s return to clay was cut short by a 6-4 6-2 first round defeat to Martina Trevisan.

    Like Kerber, Osaka only recently returned to the tour following maternity leave, and was competing as a wild card.

    In the Oeiras Ladies Open in Portugal, Britain’s fifth-seeded Harriet Dart suffered a 6-3 6-1 defeat to home player Matilde Jorge.

  • Rafael Nadal’s Barcelona Open hopes ended by Alex de Minaur Rafael Nadal’s Barcelona Open hopes ended by Alex de Minaur

    Rafael Nadal’s latest comeback bid came to an end as he was well beaten 7-5 6-1 by fourth seed Alex de Minaur at the Barcelona Open.

    The 37-year-old was playing just his second tournament in 15 months after suffering another hip problem at his comeback event in Brisbane in January.

    And having intimated that this will be his final year before retirement, Nadal’s defeat was likely to mark his final appearance at a tournament he has won 12 times.

    Having overcome Italian Flavio Cobolli in the opening round, Nadal faced a much sterner test against the in-form De Minaur and was sent scampering around the court in a tight opening set which was edged by the Australian.

    De Minaur went on to step up a gear, securing a double break over the Spaniard and racing over the line behind a strong service game on which he did not drop a single point in the second set.

    Jack Draper made the most of a rain delay to defeat wild card Rudolf Molleker and reach the quarter-finals of the BMW Open in Munich.

    German Molleker, ranked 179th, had been the better player in the first set but a brief stoppage ahead of the second set changed the momentum of the contest.

    Draper began to assert his powerful game after the resumption and lost only two more games, pulling away to claim a 4-6 6-1 6-1 victory.

    In the last eight the British number two, who is ranked 46th, will take on either third seed Taylor Fritz or Spanish qualifier Alejandro Moro Canas.

    Speaking in an on-court interview, Draper said: “I think Rudy played an amazing level in the first set. The conditions were very rainy and very slow. In the second and third, the sun comes out and I start feeling better. I’m really proud of the way I played.”

  • Rafael Nadal eases past Flavio Cobolli on return to action in Barcelona Rafael Nadal eases past Flavio Cobolli on return to action in Barcelona

    Rafael Nadal made a triumphant return to the match court with victory over Flavio Cobolli in the first round of the Barcelona Open.

    The 37-year-old was playing just his second tournament in 15 months after suffering another injury problem in his hip muscle at his comeback event in Brisbane in January.

    Nadal only committed to playing at the tournament he has won 12 times on Monday but there was not much rust on display as he eased to a 6-2 6-3 victory over 21-year-old Italian Cobolli in his first match on clay since he won his 14th French Open title in 2022.

    Nadal received a hero’s welcome as he strode out onto the court that bears his name and, although there were a few loose forehands in the early stages, the former world number one was too solid for Cobolli.

    Cobolli understandably looked nervous and contributed to the scoreline with far too many errors, but a big factor in that was the pressure being exerted from the other end of the court.

    A blip came when Nadal, who is set to retire at some point this season, played a poor game to drop serve for the first time in the third game of the second set but he had already broken Cobolli and quickly restored his advantage.

    There were some vintage forehands from Nadal in the final stages and he clinched victory when Cobolli netted a final backhand, thrusting his fist into the air.

    The home favourite faces a real test next, though, when he takes on in-form fourth seed Alex De Minaur.

    Meanwhile, second seed Andrey Rublev destroyed his racket at the end of a 6-4 7-6 (6) defeat by Brandon Nakashima that continued his poor run of form.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.