Elina Svitolina dismissed her chances of winning Wimbledon as “crazy” on Tuesday, preferring to focus on the tidal wave of support she is receiving from her war-torn Ukraine homeland, which “melts my heart”.
The 76th-ranked new mum defeated world number one Iga Swiatek 7-5, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 despite being a break down in both of the first two sets against the reigning US Open and French Open champion.
Svitolina, also a semifinalist in 2019, will take on Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic for a place in Saturday’s championship match.
The 28-year-old has made no secret of her desire to deliver victories for Ukraine and she said the reaction to her progress at the tournament has been overwhelming.
“I’m happy I can bring a little happiness to their lives. There were many videos on the internet where the kids are watching on their phones,” said Svitolina.
“This really makes my heart melt seeing this.”
However, could she go on to win the title this weekend?
“Are you crazy?” said Svitolina, who gave birth in October and only returned to the tennis tour in April.
“Marketa, she’s a tough opponent. It’s going to be a tough challenge for me. That’s why I don’t want to rush and think about I might be playing a final, might not play the final.
“These kind of things, they distract so much the mindset.”
Svitolina has reached the last four by seeing off a quartet of Grand Slam title winners in Venus Williams, Sofia Kenin, Victoria Azarenka, in a stormy last-16 clash, and now Swiatek.
She said she intended to “enjoy the moment and have a beer”.
The Ukrainian, playing on a wild card, hailed Swiatek for her unwavering support following the Russian invasion.
The Polish star organised a benefit exhibition match last year to raise funds for humanitarian causes in Ukraine.
‘I’ll root for her’
A heavily pregnant Svitolina at the time acted as chair umpire.
“Iga is a great champion and an unbelievable person,” said Svitolina.
“She was one of the first to help Ukraine people. It’s not easy to play against someone with whom you share great memories.”
Swiatek, in turn, backed Svitolina as a potential champion.
“I’ll root for her, especially because we like each other as people. I told her on the net that I hope she wins this tournament,” said the 22-year-old Pole.
Svitolina said having a baby daughter Skai with tennis-playing husband Gael Monfils, as well as the effects of the war, had modified her outlook on her career and life.
“I think the war made me stronger. I don’t take difficult situations like a disaster. There are worse things in life.
“Having a child, and the war, made me a different person. I look at the things a bit differently.”
Svitolina said it was unlikely Monfils or baby Skai would join her in London for the closing stages of the tournament.
“I was FaceTiming with her just right after the match actually. She was really distracted with her ice cream, so I was not the priority there!”
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