The Ukrainian taking Wimbledon by storm: Elina Svitolina sets her sights on final

new balance


Few stars have captivated Wimbledon spectators as much as Ukraine’s glamorous and feisty wildcard Elina Svitolina.

Dispatching US superstar Venus Williams in a two-set first round clash, the 28-year-old has soared to the semi-finals and now has her sights set on the final – possibly against Belarusian rival Aryna Savalenanka.

But like so many other Ukrainians at this time, Svitolina has rallied around Volodymyr Zelensky and praised the war-time President’s leadership. And she is refusing to shake hands with any Russian or Belarusian players as long as Vladimir Putin’s invasion – backed by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko – rages on.

The decision culminated in the extraordinary moment that Belarus player Victoria Azarenka was booed off Court No1 after being defeated by Svitolina on Sunday.

Born to Jewish parents in the Black Sea town of Odessa, which her frail grandmother has been unable to escape while Russian bombs fall, Svitolina was encouraged by her family to take up sport (her father Mykhailo is a wrestler, her mother Olena is a rower and her brother Julian is also a tennis player).

She took an interest in tennis thanks to Julian aged just four years old, with one family member remarking: ‘There is a nine-year difference between Elina and Julian. He was just starting to train in tennis. That is, Elina was born at that time. And she continued her development when there was tennis. We as a whole family immersed ourselves in tennis so much that she didn’t even have any other thoughts about tennis.’

Elina Svitolina has soared to the quarter finals, where she yesterday stunningly dispatched Polish world number one Iga Swiatek

Elina Svitolina has soared to the quarter finals, where she yesterday stunningly dispatched Polish world number one Iga Swiatek

Sensationally the former world No.3 is continuing her comeback despitegiving birth to her first child, Skaï, with fellow pro player Gael Monfils just nine months ago

Sensationally the former world No.3 is continuing her comeback despitegiving birth to her first child, Skaï, with fellow pro player Gael Monfils just nine months ago

Born to Jewish parents in the Black Sea town of Odessa, which her frail grandmother (pictured with the tennis star earlier this year) has been unable to escape while Russian bombs fall, Svitolina was encouraged by her family to take up sport

Born to Jewish parents in the Black Sea town of Odessa, which her frail grandmother (pictured with the tennis star earlier this year) has been unable to escape while Russian bombs fall, Svitolina was encouraged by her family to take up sport

Svitolina later told Radio Free Europe how she used to practice against the wall at home, adding: ‘I always played with the children, we ran, did something when my brother was training due to the fact that my brother was constantly engaged in tennis, his parents always paid more attention to him. And I wanted to catch up with the attention, I wanted to change my parents’ views on me.

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‘So I knew my parents would like it better if I was with a racket. Eventually, in principle, I liked tennis, I had many friends in tennis, we always played together.’

But with Ukraine’s opportunities for children’s and youth sports lacking, the family moved to Kharkiv and accepted help from businessman Yuriy Sapronov to train Svitolina and prepare her for international tournaments.

Today, Svitolina can afford the best doctors and fitness specialists as she soars the ranks of tennis’s greatest.

And sensationally, the former world No.3 is continuing her comeback despitegiving birth to her first child, Skaï, with French tennis player Gael Monfils just nine months ago. Monfils is currently out of the tournament with a wrist injury.

The couple announced their engagement in 2021 on social media, with the Frenchman posting a picture of Svitolina showing-off her ring in the mountains and writing: ‘She said YES. Madame MONFILS.’ Svitolina posted a shot of their pair together, adding: ‘YES! to the beginning of our forever.’

Monfils and Svitolina have been dating since 2019 and have become fan favourites, regularly posting to their shared ‘GEMS life’ Instagram page.

After returning to the circuit following the birth of their daughter, the Ukrainian won an event in Strasbourg but has struggled for form since.

But she had a press conference laughing yesterday when she described FaceTiming her daughter who was ‘distracted with her ice cream’ after the match. She said of dating a fellow player: ‘It’s really special to have someone who understands what you go through to get these wins, and it’s special to share these moments together.’

Svitolina has always been clear of her support for her homeland – pinned to the top of her professional Instagram page is a picture of her shaking hands with Zelensky.

She has said the Russian invasion has made her ‘mentally stronger’ as she hopes her impressive run at Wimbledon ‘brings a little happiness’ to those watching her from the war-torn country.

The 28-year-old has caught viewers' hearts for another reason - as she refuses to shake hands with Russian or Belarusian players while war rages in her country

The 28-year-old has caught viewers’ hearts for another reason – as she refuses to shake hands with Russian or Belarusian players while war rages in her country

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The Ukranian beat Iga Swiatek (pictured) of Poland in a gripping 7-5 6-7 (5) 6-2 victory on Centre Court

 The Ukranian beat Iga Swiatek (pictured) of Poland in a gripping 7-5 6-7 (5) 6-2 victory on Centre Court

Monfils and Svitolina have been dating since 2019 and have become fan favourites, regularly posting to their shared 'GEMS life' Instagram page

Monfils and Svitolina have been dating since 2019 and have become fan favourites, regularly posting to their shared ‘GEMS life’ Instagram page

After returning to the circuit following the birth of their daughter, the Ukrainian won an event in Strasbourg but has struggled for form since

After returning to the circuit following the birth of their daughter, the Ukrainian won an event in Strasbourg but has struggled for form since

The couple announced their engagement in 2021 on social media

The couple announced their engagement in 2021 on social media

She had a press conference laughing yesterday when she described FaceTiming her daughter who was 'distracted with her ice cream' after the match

She had a press conference laughing yesterday when she described FaceTiming her daughter who was ‘distracted with her ice cream’ after the match

After beating world number one Iga in a gripping 7-5 6-7 (5) 6-2 victory on Centre Court, she said: ‘I think war made me stronger and also made me, like, mentally stronger. Mentally I don’t take difficult situations as like a disaster, you know? There are worse things in life. I’m just more calmer. But I think having a child, and war, made me a different person.’

When asked what her win means for her country, she added: ‘I know that lots of people back in Ukraine watching. I got really massive amount of messages from last round. I didn’t really check my phone yet today, but I think there will be a lot of messages, a lot of news.

‘I’m happy I can bring little happiness to their life. ‘There was many videos also on internet where the kids are watching on their phones. This really makes my heart melt seeing this.’

It comes as the top player refused to shake hands with Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka, who she beat on Sunday, as per policy to not shake the hands of any Russian or Belarusian opponent as the illegal war rages on.

The crowd booed on Sunday as Azarenka left the court and while Svitolina asked All England Tennis Club chief Sally Bolton for an announcement to be made to clarify her position, it was refused.

‘We’ve no intention of doing that,’ Bolton said, when asked about the possibility of an announcement.

‘Historically in tennis the decision on how a player reacts at the end of a match is entirely a personal decision for them and I think we don’t really want to start mandating what happens.

‘I think we have an incredibly knowledgeable audience at Wimbledon and I think in the most part they would understand what was going on.

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‘I wouldn’t want to speculate on what everybody in the crowd was thinking last night.

‘I would echo what Elina and Vika said. Having witnessed one of the most incredible matches on No 1 court to an absolutely rapt audience, we should be focusing on the tennis and the match we saw, not all of the other stuff that went on.’

Svitolina has always been clear of her support for her homeland - pinned to the top of her professional Instagram page is a picture of her shaking hands with war-leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Svitolina has always been clear of her support for her homeland – pinned to the top of her professional Instagram page is a picture of her shaking hands with war-leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Svitolina has said the Russian invasion has made her 'mentally stronger' as she hopes her impressive run at Wimbledon 'brings a little happiness' to those watching her from the war-torn country

Svitolina has said the Russian invasion has made her ‘mentally stronger’ as she hopes her impressive run at Wimbledon ‘brings a little happiness’ to those watching her from the war-torn country

Earlier this week, Azarenka claimed the Wimbledon crowd who booed her off the court following her match with Svitolina were ‘drunk on Pimms’, as Svitolina called her supporters ‘amazing’.

Azarenka received jeers from spectators as she began to leave following her fourth-round loss, prompting her to bang her fists together in a dismissive gesture. She hit out at the ‘unfair’ behaviour at a press conference after and accused fans of being drunk.

But giving her own reaction, Svitolina said: ‘I heard a lot of Ukrainian people in the crowd so that was really special. The crowd was amazing, it was one of the best atmospheres that I ever played in.’

The victorious player has also made headlines after she revealed she had no plans to take former One Direction star Harry Styles up on his offer to get tickets for his concert.

Styles wrote to her on Instagram: ‘Congratulations! We have four shows to go, you’re welcome at any of them. Good luck with the rest of the tournament.’

Speaking to reporters after her win on Tuesday, she called the singer ‘very sweet’ for reaching out to her and expressed hopes of attending a gig of his ‘one day’.

‘I checked his upcoming concerts that’s left,’ she said. ‘It depends how I’m going to do here, but looks like I might not make it in the end because obviously I want to go home to see my daughter as well.’

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