Tearful Elina Svitolina exits Wimbledon after inspiring run ends in semi-finals

By Sports Desk July 13, 2023

Elina Svitolina became tearful as she reflected on the end of her hopes of winning the Wimbledon title for Ukraine.

Svitolina’s efforts amid war in her homeland and only nine months after giving birth to daughter Skai have been one of the stories of the tournament.

But her hopes of reaching a first grand slam final were ended in emphatic fashion by 24-year-old Czech Marketa Vondrousova, whose 6-3 6-3 victory makes her the first unseeded women’s finalist at Wimbledon since 1963.

Far more at home on clay than grass, this is Vondrousova’s first big grand slam run since she lost to Ashleigh Barty in the French Open final as a teenager in 2019.

Svitolina was desperately disappointed with her performance and struggled to keep her composure as she spoke about the support she had received from back home.

“I got a lot of messages from different people,” she said. “It’s unbelievable that they’ve been there with me all the way. Hopefully they continue.

“For sure I hope I can build on this. But right now I’m just really disappointed with the performance that I showed today. That’s what I have right now in my mind.

“Probably I will need a couple of days to really reflect on everything that happened because I was trying to be really focused, even after the win against Iga (Swiatek).”

Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, was in the Royal Box, with Svitolina’s run having provided cheer amid dark times for her compatriots back home.

Sergiy Stakhovsky celebrated the best moment of his career on Centre Court 10 years ago when he beat Roger Federer but that is a distant memory now as he prepares to return to the front line.

He told the Telegraph: “There’s not a person in Ukraine who isn’t following her story. She brings joy where there is despair, brings hope where there is misery. She is fulfilling a lot of things the Ukrainians need these days.”

Although it did not maintain its ban on Russian and Belarusian players, Wimbledon organisers have tried to show they are still on Ukraine’s side, welcoming 1,000 refugees to the Championships and helping Ukrainian players with training and accommodation costs.

They are also donating one pound for every fan who comes through the gates to the British Red Cross’ humanitarian work in Ukraine, with the total at £412,132 after 10 days.

Svitolina has spoken at length about the new mindset she has on her return to tennis, as a new mother and as a result of the war, with on-court defeats no longer the disaster they might once have felt.

But here she found herself perhaps the favourite against a similarly unexpected semi-finalist – this was the first time in the open era that a last-four clash here had featured two unseeded players.

The freedom with which Svitolina had progressed through her first five rounds was missing, while Vondrousova is also a player who offers a frustrating lack of rhythm.

The Czech mixes big hits from the baseline with drop shots, lobs and short angles and she wrapped up the first set in less than half an hour, breaking Svitolina’s serve three times in a row.

The fans tried to will Svitolina, who lost both her previous slam semi-finals here and at the US Open in 2019, back into the match in the second set but Vondrousova was firmly in her groove and she moved to the brink of victory at 4-0.

The Czech can be a nervous closer and there were definite signs of tension as Svitolina broke twice in succession to claw her way back to 4-3 only to play another poor game, and she looked emotional as she walked off court to a standing ovation.

The Ukrainian admitted she has been carrying a lot on her shoulders, saying: “For sure it’s a big motivation but it’s a lot of responsibility, a lot of tension. I try to balance it as much as I can.

“But sometimes it gets maybe too much. But I don’t want to take it as an excuse that I lost today. I try to take it as a motivation for me. I just hope that Ukrainian people continue supporting me. It was really amazing. And I just hope that I’m going to get another chance.”

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