Elina Svitolina’s storybook Wimbledon run came to an agonizing end on Thursday when she lost her semifinal match against Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in straight sets.
Svitolina, a new mother from Ukraine who has become a symbol of defiance since the Russian invasion in February 2022, especially during her runs at the French Open and Wimbledon, fell to Vondrousova, 6-3, 6-3, in a mistake. She fills the afternoon under the roof of Center Court.
For 10 days, Svitolina, who needed a wild card to enter the tournament, had played tennis with a combination of freedom and challenge that thrilled the British crowd, especially during her victory over 19th seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the fourth round. round. her when she prevailed in a final set tiebreaker after Azarenka appeared to have the match all but won. Two days later, Svitolina ousted Poland’s Iga Swiatek, the world number 1 and four-time Grand Slam champion, in another tense and emotional three-set triumph.
She talked about how the war and being a new mother had changed her and her approach to tennis, even making her better because she had a new perspective on the sport.
“I don’t take difficult situations as a disaster,” he said. “There are worse things in life. I’m just calmer.”
But then she ran into Vondrousova, a talented and crafty left-handed player who may not have anything like the resume of Swiatek and Azarenka, or Sofia Kenin or Venus Williams, two of Svitolina’s other victims at this tournament, but she played as if she did.
Vondrousova, who was ranked No. 1 in the world as a junior and reached the final of the French Open in 2019, is developing a habit of playing killjoy. At the Tokyo Olympics, she knocked out Japan’s Naomi Osaka, the national hero and international star who had lit the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony, and won a silver medal.
Against Svitolina, she displayed all the skill she has displayed in her best matches, showcasing a varied attack that includes rolling forehands, dropped shots and a penchant for going to the net to finish off points at every opportunity. Being left-handed also helps. It forces opponents to adapt to different spins than they normally face and to change the direction of their attack if they want to get the ball to their backhand.
She had plenty of help from Svitolina, who for the first hour of the game seemed to have lost the ethereal feel for the ball that had characterized her game for much of the tournament. Swiatek has spoken about how this version of Svitolina, who spent much of his maternity leave raising money for war relief in Ukraine, was so different.
“She played with more freedom and more guts,” Swiatek said. “Sometimes she’d just let go of her hand and play really, really fast.”
That version of Svitolina appeared only briefly. In the second set, down a set and 4-0, she broke Vondrousova’s serve twice for a chance to even the set.
The crowd, wanting so badly to help tip the match in their favor, came to life as Svitolina let out a whoop and raised her fist and leapt to her chair for the change. But as soon as she took advantage of the impulse, she returned it.