Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina leaves Wimbledon with honors

Ukraine's Elina Svitolina greets the Wimbledon crowd after her semi-final loss to Czech Marketa Vondrousova, Thursday, July 13, 2023, in London.

Revenge will wait. Swept away in the semi-finals (6-3, 6-3) by Marketa Vondrousova, Elina Svitolina could not resist the 42nd in the world. This is the second defeat of the Ukrainian against the Czech player after the one suffered, at the same stage of the competition, during the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. This poor performance should not, however, hide the exceptional summer of Elina Svitolina, surprise winner of Iga Swiatek, world number 1, on the London lawn in the quarter-finals (7-5, 6-7, 6-2), after several months away from the courts, between pregnancy, injuries and war in his country.

Currently world No. 76, Elina Svitolina has had a near-white season in 2022. During a mentally exhausting spring following the invasion of Ukraine, the player decided to step back from the courts. “I am proud to be Ukrainian. Let us unite in this extremely difficult time for the sake of peace and the future of our State. Glory to Ukraine »she wrote on Twitter, February 23, 2022. Tennis then took second place for Svitolina, who dedicated herself to helping her country and was appointed ambassador of the United 24 association, created by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

On May 17, 2022, Elina Svitolina, married to Frenchman Gaël Monfils, announced her pregnancy. Happy news that she shares on social networks: “With hearts full of love and happiness, we are delighted to announce that we are expecting a baby girl in October. » Despite recurring back pain, Svitolina returned to the circuit in March 2023, during the Charleston tournament in the United States. Eliminated in the first round against the Kazakh Yulia Putintseva, she won the Strasbourg tournament two months later. A first since his victory in Chicago in September 2021.

Third Grand Slam semi-final

It’s a rebirth for the tennis player, used to rubbing shoulders with the peaks (3ᵉ world in 2017) and descended into the abyss of the women’s ranking (WTA). Aligned on clay at Roland-Garros, a surface she does not like, Svitolina manages to reach the quarter-finals at the cost of an obstacle course. Finally beaten by Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, seeded number 2, in two sets (4-6, 4-6), she aroused the affection of the French public. “From the first round, I saw that I was supported, I was cheered by the public and I get a little more each time”, she breathes after her round of 16 against Daria Kasatkina. An unexpected return, after only two months of competition.

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During the London fortnight, she eliminated four former Grand Slam tournament winners (Venus Williams, Sofia Kenin, Victoria Azarenka and Iga Swiatek). Only Serena Williams, at the 1999 US Open, and Justine Hénin, at Roland-Garros in 2005, had achieved such a feat. In the quarter-finals, Iga Swiatek, eliminated after a 2:41 thriller sometimes reaching tennis heights, recognized the superiority of her opponent. “She didn’t play like she did when we played two years ago [à Rome en 2021], explained the Pole after her defeat. She was more liberated. »

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Where some might have given in to discouragement, Svitolina concedes that she feels stronger since the war, “including mentally”. “I don’t consider difficult times as disasters anymore. There are worse things in life. » On Thursday, this approach was not enough. She is eliminated for the third time in her career in the Grand Slam semi-finals, after Wimbledon and the US Open in 2019.

His opponent of the day, Marketa Vondrousova, will face in the final on Saturday, Ons Jabeur, winner of Aryna Sabalenka in three sets (6-7, 6-4, 6-3). The Czech, who will play in her second Grand Slam final after Roland Garros 2019 (lost to Ashleigh Barty), could become the first unseeded player to win Wimbledon. As for Svitolina, the Ukrainian will have another chance to win the grail at the US Open (August 28-September 10, 2023).


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