Elina Svitolina’s storybook run at Wimbledon came to a painful end on Thursday when she lost in straight sets to Marcheta Vondrusova of the Czech Republic in the semi-finals.
The Ukrainian Svitolina, who has become a symbol of defiance since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, especially during her appearances at the French Open and Wimbledon, beat Bondrosova 6-3 6-3 in an afternoon riddled with errors. lost in center court rooftop.
Needing a wildcard to qualify for the tournament, Svitolina played tennis for 10 days with a combination of freedom and challenge, especially when she defeated 19th seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the fourth round. excited the crowd. When she won the final set tiebreak after Azarenka almost won the match. Two days later, Svitolina won another tense and emotional three-set victory over world No. 1 and four-time Grand Slam champion Iga Swiatek of Poland.
She said how the war and being a new mother changed her approach to herself and tennis, and how having a new perspective on the sport made her even better.
“I don’t look at difficult situations like disasters,” she said. “There are worse things in life.
But then she met Vondrasova, a talented and tricky left-handed player. She had nothing close to the resumes of Swiatek and Azarenka, or of Sophia Kenin or Venus Williams, another of Svitolina’s victims at this tournament, but she played: . if she did.
“I can’t say I was too nervous,” Svitolina said after the match, brooding and crying. “We should have found a better way to deal with Marketa’s game style.”
Bondrosova, who was ranked number one in the world as a junior and reached the final of the French Open in 2019, has a habit of spoiling. At the Tokyo Olympics, she defeated Japan’s national hero and international star Naomi Osaka, who lit the Olympic torch, to win the silver medal at the opening ceremony.
Against Svitolina, she displayed all the skills she has shown in her best matches so far, showing off a wide variety of attacks including a nimble rolling forehand, drop shots and a penchant for the net at every opportunity. bottom. Being left-handed also helps. This forces her opponents to adapt to a different spin than usual, switching the direction of her attack if they want to get the ball on her backhand.
She also got a lot of help from Svitolina. In the first hour of play, she seemed to have lost the ethereal feel of the ball that had characterized her play throughout the tournament.
Siwiatek said Svitolina, who spent much of her maternity leave raising money for the Ukrainian war, beat her with a more free and gutsy style of tennis than she had seen before.
“Sometimes she really took her hands off and played really, really fast,” Swirtek said.
That version of Svitolina made a brief appearance during the semi-finals. Down a set 4-0 in the second set, she broke Vondrosova’s serve twice to get a chance in the set.
As Svitolina screamed and fist pumped and leaped to her chair for her substitution, the crowd, who were desperate to turn the match in her favor, roared.
But as soon as she got the momentum, she gave it back. The error recurred, and her stroke didn’t feel as fast or precise as it had in previous matches. As her final ball went wide, her chin reached her chest and she walked to the net to give Fondrosova her congratulatory hug.
“I was in a bit of a hurry,” Svitolina said. She said, “I tried to fight back and do my best. ‘That didn’t happen.'”
“She’s such a fighter, she’s such an amazing person,” said Bondrusova of Svitolina. “I was really nervous,” she said.
She didn’t play like that, but now she’s set to date at Saturday’s Wimbledon final.