One of the fans on Center Court was holding a Ukrainian flag. Another shouted, “I love you, Elina.” The Ukrainian ambassador was also there, along with fans from Britain, the United States, Uganda, Bulgaria and beyond, cheering on uncrowned 2023 Wimbledon sentimental champion Elina Svitolina.
Ultimately, though, the pressure of carrying the hopes of her country and the Wimbledon team on her shoulders wore her down. Svitolina left a clear void in the tournament despite the crowd’s attempts to lift her spirits, failing to beat world number 42 Marketa Vondrusova, who defeated her in straight sets on Thursday. rice field.
“It’s a big responsibility and a lot of tension,” Svitolina admitted after the match. “I try to be as balanced as possible. But yeah, sometimes that can be too much.”
A flag-bearer for new mothers in Ukraine and around the world, Svitolina was due to leave the UK on Friday to reunite with her daughter and family. But her Wimbledon victory has revitalized her, and she will continue to run beyond the summer, bringing even more attention to her two causes.
“What she’s doing is beautiful in many ways,” said Puma Yeni, a social care worker in London. She said, “She’s very brave, so everyone is rooting for her.”
When she lost in the semi-finals, the fans at the top of Henman Hill, the mound next to Court 1 where fans gather to watch the match on a giant video screen, were mostly silent. Cheers and applause erupted as Svitolina’s success erupted, but it soon became clear that she was fighting a desperate battle, and a sullen dark cloud descended on the magnificent tennis campus.
“It’s very sad,” said Valia Ivanova, a civil servant and tennis fan living in London, via Bulgaria, who usually supports Novak Djokovic. She said, “She has such a beautiful story that everyone wanted her to win. Now, can you hear me, I’m just being silent.”
Svitolina has become a beacon for many at home and abroad, outspokenly supporting Ukraine’s efforts to combat Russian aggression. She used her prominence to host tennis events and other activities to raise funds for relief efforts and to make public proclamations condemning the invasion. She also drew attention to her cause by refusing to shake hands with the Russian and Belarusian players, which is customary after each match. The latter country supported the invasion.
Svitolina said she felt the support of the fans throughout her six matches here and thanked the tennis fans from her home country and around the world who came to watch in person and the millions who watched on TV. She expressed particular gratitude for the determined support of the British people and government, which has provided both military aid and protection to refugees since the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
“I am very grateful to the audience who cheered me on and stood by me, and to the whole Ukrainian people,” Svitolina said. “Because of the many Ukrainians who came here when the war started, they have been very supportive of us in many ways. I really appreciate people.”
Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarusian athletes last year, but reluctantly allowed them this year, but not the Russian and Belarusian representatives. Ukrainian ambassador Vadim Prystaiko watched Svitolina play from the royal box on Thursday, but he didn’t learn about it until the post-match press conference.
Since the tournament’s inception, the All England Club has provided tickets, transport and food to over 1,000 Ukrainian refugees. Even if Svitolina hadn’t rampaged through to the semi-finals, the club probably would have, but her success further clarified the situation.
“She is the story of the tournament,” said Sara Serwanga, a London tennis fan who attended the game with her daughter Zoe. “Everything she does is very inspiring,” she said.
Many fans are also inspired by Svitolina’s ability to play great as a new mother. She gave birth to a baby girl, Skye, in October and returned to the tennis tour in April. Her husband, professional tennis player Gael Monfils, was at home with the baby, along with the couple’s mothers. Svitolina has worked almost alone to charm and charm the fans here.
Executive Serwanga had two children and was able to take six months off to care for them after each was born. Then I went back to work. She tried to imagine the hardship Svitolina faced when she came back so early and left her baby behind during her long run here.
“Your body changes, your emotions swirl, and you never know what will happen next,” Serwanga said. “To have all of this and to be able to play for her country like her is amazing. Just amazing.”
In the weeks leading up to the U.S. Open, Svitolina will continue to build on her success on hard courts across North America, perhaps using it to reach her first Grand Slam final.
Before that, she looked forward to the only thing that cheered her up: seeing her daughter again. Her eyes filled with tears at her poignant press conference after the game, but her smile spilled out.
“That’s the best part,” she said.