HomeSportsThe force is with Elina Svitolina once again - UnlistedNews

The force is with Elina Svitolina once again – UnlistedNews

It’s time to consider whether having a child and spending a year away from the sport to raise money to help her compatriots in Ukraine have made Elina Svitolina an even better tennis player.

She says yes, and there’s no reason not to believe her.

Svitolina’s unlikely run at Wimbledon played out in a big way on Tuesday. Two days after Svitolina, a new mother who needed a wild card to enter the tournament, defeated former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in an emotional and dramatic triumph, Svitolina defeated current World No.1 Iga Swiatek.

Playing with courage, steel and a higher purpose, Svitolina matched Swiatek’s hard-hitting shot for shot, and more, on the most hallowed court in the sport, sending joy to a crowd that had been with her since her first shot of a tournament that had thought it would be over for her.

As the match ended, Svitolina raised a hand to her face, hugged Swiatek from the other side of the net, then raised two arms to the crowd with a disbelieving shrug.

“I don’t know what’s going on right now,” Svitolina told them moments later.

Some things are hard to explain.

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine 18 months ago, Svitolina announced she was taking a break from professional tennis because she was pregnant with her first child with her husband, Gaël Monfils, the veteran Tour pro and tennis showman from France.

Tennis was hardly a priority then anyway. His pregnancy topped the list, as did raising funds for war relief efforts in his homeland. His foundation has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars since the start of the war.

In October, she and Monfils announced the birth of their daughter, Skai. Not long after, Svitolina began training and practicing for her return to the WTA Tour, in March at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

It didn’t go well for her at first, losing six of her first seven matches, but Svitolina, a graceful and deceptively powerful player who had been ranked third in the world in 2019, slowly began to regain her feel. for the ball and for the competition.

And he made it clear, especially during the French Open in Paris, that tennis is no longer about money or ranking points. It was about bringing some joy to the people of Ukraine.

He did a lot of that when he reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. Still, he had made it past the second round there only twice in eight attempts and had not competed on grass since 2021 until last month. His hopes were so low that he bought tickets to a Harry Styles concert last week, assuming he would be free.

She wasn’t, and after her win over Swiatek on Tuesday, she said she didn’t think she was going to take her up on the pop star’s offer to invite her to a concert any time soon.

“That was very sweet of him,” he said of Styles’ offer. “I hope one day I can go.”

She will have to wait at least until after her semifinal match on Thursday against Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who beat Jessica Pegula of the United States in three sets. A win over Vondrousova could well set up a final showdown with a player from Belarus (Aryna Sabalenka) or with Elena Rybakina, the defending champion, who grew up in Russia but represents Kazakhstan. Sabalenka and Rybakina play their quarterfinal matches on Wednesday and are heavy favourites.

That’s in the future, though, and would surely bring a similar tension to Svitolina’s fourth-round win over Azarenka. Players from Russia and Belarus were banned from playing in the tournament last year, and while they were mostly warmly received, Svitolina and the other players from Ukraine refused to shake hands with players from those countries.

Azarenka was booed off the court, unfairly, Svitolina said, after Svitolina defeated her on Sunday, despite Azarenka giving Svitolina the nod after the final point. Last year, Azarenka offered to play at a charity event to raise funds to benefit war relief efforts, though players in Ukraine told her not to. But the boos kept pouring in.

Swiatek, who is from Poland and is a staunch critic of the invasion, has done more than any non-Ukrainian player to help with war relief efforts.

But there was no lack of healthy tension in Tuesday’s game. Swiatek, a four-time Grand Slam champion, appeared to be in control early and even served for the first set at 5-4. He then missed a series of forehands and wild, tentative first serves. Svitolina continued to hit her tightrope shots, clearing the net by just inches, over and over for the rest of the afternoon.

He won 16 of the final 18 points in the first set. As the roof closed with the rain en route, a panicked Swiatek made her way to the corner of the court, begging her team for answers.

“I felt like I was making pretty much the same mistakes,” Swiatek said. “I wanted advice, what do you think I should focus on. Sometimes when something doesn’t work, it’s hard to find a reason because there may be multiple reasons.”

The main reason of all was Svitolina, who later said that she had been playing with a different kind of inspiration. She had spent parts of the last two days watching videos of her son in the Ukraine watching her games on a phone. She knows what her victories mean and where they fit into the grand scheme of things.

All of that has power.

“The war made me stronger and it also made me mentally stronger,” he said. “I don’t take difficult situations as a disaster, you know? There are worse things in life. I’m just calmer.”

Make no mistake: she desperately wants to win, but her experience of pressure has changed.

“I see things a little differently,” he said.

After leaving the court, he FaceTimed Monfils, who, along with his and her mother, is caring for their daughter in one of their homes. He said that Skai hadn’t talked to her much. She was distracted by a serving of ice cream.

Can he win this tournament and the biggest prize of all?

She insisted, as she did after the Azarenka match, that she was not meant to go this far. She doesn’t let her husband come over, because he hasn’t been here yet, and now he’s not messing with her routine. Who needs it anyway, when she has another purpose and another power, especially against those opponents from Russia and Belarus?

“Every time I play against them, it’s a great motivation, a great responsibility,” he said. “Right now it is very, very far away. It seems very close, but it is very far from this.


Sara Marcus
Sara Marcus
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.


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