In a major shock at the Wimbledon tennis championships, unseeded wildcard entrant Elina Svitolina knocked out the number one seed Iga Swiatek to storm into the semi-finals. In doing so she gave herself a great opportunity to go on a win the tournament, in what would be a hugely popular and emotional victory.
Playing some scintillating tennis, the Ukrainian who only returned to the tour in April following time away from the circuit after having a baby last year, fought off a comeback from her Polish opponent to run away with the deciding set, backed by a Centre Court crowd that gave her terrific support.
The former world number three, now 28-years-old, is proudly flying the flag for her country in the face of the horrors of war, and admitted it was a bittersweet success, due to the fact that it came against an individual who has consistently worn a yellow and blue ribbon in acknowledgement of the Ukrainian flag, since the illegal Russian invasion, to show where her support lies in the conflict.
Coming into Wimbledon Ms Svitolina currently ranked number 76 in the world, had not expected to make it beyond the first week and as a result had reluctantly been forced to give up a pop concert ticket to see Harry Styles in Vienna last weekend.
She now will meet Czech Marketa Vondrousova, who caused an upset of her own by knocking out fourth seeded American, Jessica Pegula in their quarter-final.
Initiative taken with support of passionate crowd
There was no sign of the drama to come in the early games, with Ms Svitolina conceding her first service game tamely. However, Ms Swiatek lost her focus and allowed the Ukrainian to pinch the first set, just as the rain came.
After a short delay to close the roof as the rain started to fall, saw the second set go to the Pole in a tie break and many at that point believed the momentum from that would see her take control of the match. That did not transpire and she was instead broken twice in the third set and seemed to lose belief, as the crowd became increasingly supportive of the Ukrainian and roared her on to a deserved win.
Ms Svitolina looked genuinely shocked when she sealed the win and with it a place in the semi-final. Afterwards she remained composed in an on-court interview, but admitted it was “an unbelievable feeling” to win in the manner that she had done, and said she would enjoy the success with her whole team.
She added: “At the beginning of the tournament if somebody would tell me that I will be in the semi-final and beating the world number one, I would say they are crazy.” When asked how she was going to prepare for the next match she replied: “Well, first of all I am going to have a beer probably.”
She also thanked Ms Swiatek for continuing support of Ukraine, saying: “Iga is not only a great champion, but also an unbelievable person.
So for sure it’s not easy to play against someone that you share a lot of good moments and I think for her it was not easy, but in the end I was really proud with the effort I did today.”
Victory for all Ukrainians
Thanking the crowd for investing their support in her, she was also quick to remember her homeland, stating that her unexpected run of victories would hopefully “bring a little happiness”, making the point that the war had altered her perspective on life, coupled with the joy that her young daughter had brought.
Only “One Direction” to head
With wonderful generosity of spirit Ms Swiatek said she would be “rooting” for her friend to go on a clinch the title.
There was also a great message from an unlikely source, when Harry Styles “served an ace” by making contact to invite Ms Svitolina to his next concert after she missed his performance in Vienna.