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Vanquished Svitolina urges Ukrainians to ‘keep fighting for your dream’

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Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina reacts during her semi final match against Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova

When Marketa Vondrousova fell to her knees in triumph after ending Elina Svitolina’s incredible Wimbledon odyssey on Thursday, the Czech not only crushed the dreams of a new mother but also of a war-torn nation desperate to witness some cheer.

Svitolina’s remarkable run to the Wimbledon semi-finals nine months after she gave birth to daughter Skai had offered some much needed joy to Ukrainians who have been trying to cope with Russia’s invasion of the country for the last 17 months.

Against that backdrop of destruction, millions of Ukrainians had been following the Wimbledon fortunes of Svitolina and rejoiced as she took down four Grand Slam champions, including Poland’s world number one Iga Swiatek, to reach the last four.

Although 28-year-old Svitolina was left totally distraught when Vondrousova cut short that run on Thursday, the turmoil in her homeland remained at the forefront of her thoughts.

“It’s unbelievable that they have been there with me all the way. Hopefully they continue,” she said as her eyes welled up.

“My family was watching. A lot of people, as well, in Ukraine. I’m really happy that it was live in Ukraine because it took some years to make this happen for Ukrainian people.

“It’s really important for kids to watch tennis and other sports as well, to have something different in their life, for them to set their dreams, to set their goals.”

 

HIGH EXPECTATION

In the lead-up to the showdown with Vondrousova, Svitolina declared that the war in Ukraine, which Moscow calls a ‘special military operation’, had made her stronger, allowing her to play a fearless brand of tennis few had observed from her before.

On Thursday, however, it seemed that weight of expectation had finally caught up with her and the spectacular shots she had played with great abandon to get this far had suddenly dried up.

“Sometimes it gets maybe too much … it’s a lot of responsibility, a lot of tension,” admitted Svitolina, whose husband Gael Monfils stayed back in France to look after their daughter during her stay at Wimbledon.

“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, yeah, just hope that I’m going to get another chance.”

It is unlikely that Svitolina’s magnificent comeback tale will end with Thursday’s defeat.

Since returning to the tour in April she won her first title in almost two years in Strasbourg, donating her prize money to humanitarian aid for Ukrainian children, then reached the last eight at Roland Garros and has now gone one better at Wimbledon.

“For sure I hope I can build on this. Probably I’ll need a couple of days to really reflect on everything that happened,” Svitolina said.

“I will need a couple of days to really switch myself off first from everything and then think about what happened, what did I do right, and what did I do wrong, as well.”

But no matter what happens, she hopes her legacy will be: “To believe in yourself. In different situations, you always need to find the way to fight for your dream. Just continue dreaming and trying to achieve your dream.”

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