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‘War made me stronger’ – Svitolina reaches semis

Iga Swiatek and Elina Svitolina
Iga Swiatek told Elina Svitolina after the match that she hoped the Ukrainian would go on to win the title
Venue: All England Club Dates: 3-16 July
Coverage: Live across BBC TV, radio and online with extensive coverage on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, Connected TVs and mobile app. More coverage details here.

Ukrainian Elina Svitolina says war in her homeland has made her mentally stronger after she reached a surprise Wimbledon semi-final.

Just three months after returning to the tour, having had a baby in October, she beat top seed Iga Swiatek 7-5 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 in the last eight.

She said she was glad to “bring a little happiness” to Ukrainians and that war had altered her perspective.

“Mentally, I don’t take difficult situations as a disaster,” she said.

“There are worse things in life.

“I think war made me stronger and also made me mentally stronger.”

The former world number three had the vocal backing of a passionate Centre Court crowd who were emotionally invested in a player who is producing some of the best tennis of her career against the backdrop of turmoil of the war and joy of becoming a mother.

She was grateful for the support in the stands but was even happier at the impact her run to the semi-final she “didn’t really expect” might have back home.

“There were many videos on the internet where the kids are watching on their phones. This really makes my heart melt seeing this,” the 28-year-old said.

Svitolina capitalised on Swiatek’s errors – 41 of them unforced – to reach her third Grand Slam semi-final, and second at the All England Club after also reaching this stage in 2019.

She did not let herself be distracted by a delay after the first set while the Centre Court roof was closed because of rain, and she kept her nerve to serve out the victory at the first time of asking to record a memorable win that will lift her from 76th in the world rankings to most likely within the top 30.

“I have this motivation, like huge motivation, to come back to the top. But I think having a child, and war, made me a different person. I look at the things a bit differently,” she said.

“I’m just more calm.”

She might be motivated by her daughter, but how did baby Skai react when she saw her mum on a video call after this big victory?

“She was really distracted with her ice cream, so I was not the priority there,” Svitolina smiled.

“She is still at this age when she doesn’t care if I win, if I lose.”

But one person who does care is beaten opponent Swiatek, who said after the defeat that she was “rooting for” her friend to win a maiden Grand Slam trophy on Saturday.

“I told her on the net that I hope she wins this tournament,” said the Pole, who has shown her support for Ukraine since the Russian invasion by wearing on her cap a yellow and blue ribbon – the colours of the Ukrainian flag.

Svitolina and the other Ukrainian players at Wimbledon and other grass-court events this summer have also had the support of the LTA and the All England Club, which have funded their accommodation and provided them with places to train this summer.

“[I’m] really thankful for the Championships to also give us extra support,” she said. “Of course, generally speaking, it was unbelievable what England did and is doing for Ukrainians. We can’t thank them enough for doing everything that’s in their power.”

Svitolina will face unseeded Czech Marketa Vondrousova in the semi-finals on Thursday after the 2019 French Open runner-up beat American fourth seed Jessica Pegula.

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