Elina Svitolina is in a fog at Wimbledon because of the missile attacks on Ukraine


LONDON — Elina Svitolina spoke haltingly, pausing occasionally to sigh, as she discussed the deadly Russian missile attack on her home country of Ukraine, an event that weighed on her and mattered far more than the straight-set victory Monday that meant a return to the Wimbledon quarterfinals.

Svitolina has relatives back home — a grandmother, an uncle, others — and while victories like the 6-2, 6-1 scoreline against Wang Xinyu mean something to them, and can serve as “a small light that brought a happy moment for Ukrainian people,” in her words, it is not easy to think too much about tennis.

Dozens of Russian missiles hit five cities in Ukraine, striking apartment buildings and a children’s hospital in the capital of Kyiv, killing at least 31 people and wounding more than 150, officials said.

“It was really difficult for me to really be here, in a way, and do anything. I just wanted to be in my room, just be there with my emotions, with everything. When you have these sad days, where you don’t want to do anything, it was this kind of day for me,” said Svitolina, who received permission from the All England Club to wear a black mourning ribbon pinned to her white shirt during the match.

“It’s very close to our heart and a very sensitive topic, very sensitive emotions that we feel every single day,” she said at her news conference, hands clasped on the table in front of her. “But today was one of the days where it was even more difficult.”

Earlier, during an on-court interview at the match’s conclusion, Svitolina wiped away tears when she mentioned what was happening in Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia, with help from Belarus, nearly 2 1/2 years ago.

In 2022, the All England Club barred all Russian and Belarusian players from competing at Wimbledon, but they were let back in last year, albeit officially competing as “neutral” athletes whose nations are not identified in the draws or TV graphics.

Svitolina said she would prefer if that ban were still in place, but that there’s nothing she can do about the policy change.

“For now, I just want to raise awareness, to raise funds for people in need, to raise support for the kids through my foundation. … So many ways we can help people,” she said, “and not only focus on the things we cannot control.”

Svitolina, who is married to French tennis pro Gael Monfils, was a semifinalist at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament in 2019 and 2023 and is seeded 21st this year. Her opponent in the quarterfinals will be 2022 champion Elena Rybakina, who advanced when No. 17 Anna Kalinskaya stopped playing because of an injured right wrist while trailing in the second set.

The other quarterfinal on the top half of the women’s bracket will be 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko against 2021 French Open winner Barbora Krejcikova or 11th-seeded Danielle Collins.

Ostapenko was a 6-2, 6-3 winner against Yulia Putintseva, who eliminated No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the third round.

Svitolina said she felt like she was “in a fog” on Monday, unable to go through her usual prematch thoughts and preparation.

Her team was relatively quiet.

The tactical notes were kept to a minimum.

Afterward, the excitement was muted.

“For many Ukrainians, they will share this feeling with me. We feel guilt that we feel happy or that we feel good. Not only because I’m in the quarterfinal of (a) Grand Slam, but in everything. You go (on vacation), you feel guilty because you’re not in Ukraine. Many people cannot leave the country. Many people are at the war. Many people are fighting, defending our front lines,” Svitolina explained.

“We’ve been living with this feeling for over two years. I mean, it’s nothing new,” she said. “But yes, of course, it’s not a pleasant feeling to have.”

___

AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis



Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top