Ukrainian wild card Elina Svitolina crashes out of Wimbledon

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Ukraine’s wildcard Elina Svitolina has crashed out of Wimbledon as her dreams of SW19 glory come to an end.

The glamorous tennis star lost in two straight sets to Czech player Marketa Vondrousova on Centre Court as they battled for a place in the weekend’s grand final.

Few stars have captivated Wimbledon spectators as much as feisty Svitolina, who won hearts and minds with her quarter final womens’ singles victory against World number one Iga Swiatek to book her semi-final place against Vondrousova.

Svitolina, currently ranked 76 but who has been as high as three, said: ‘It’s different right now. Right now I just say to myself I think it’s less years that I have in front than behind me. 

‘I have to go for it. I don’t have time to lose anymore. I don’t know how many years I will be playing more. So just I try to tell myself, like, go for it. You practice for these moments, for these big moments. This really helped me and calmed me a little bit, as well.’

Born in the Black Sea town of Odessa, Svitolina’s family moved to Kharkiv where she picked up tennis then was plucked from obscurity for training in international competitions. She left the home at the age of 12 and embarked on a career which now sees her vye for her maiden Wimbledon title.

Ukraine's glamorous wildcard Elina Svitolina has taken to Centre Court for her Wimbledon semi-final clash. She is pictured during her quarter final match against Poland's Iga Swiatek

Ukraine’s glamorous wildcard Elina Svitolina has taken to Centre Court for her Wimbledon semi-final clash. She is pictured during her quarter final match against Poland’s Iga Swiatek

Elina Svitolina (left)  and Czech Republic's Marketa Vondrousova arrive in the court to play their women's singles semi-finals at Wimbledon

Elina Svitolina (left)  and Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova arrive in the court to play their women’s singles semi-finals at Wimbledon

Czech Republic's Marketa Vondrousova (left) returns the ball to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina

Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova (left) returns the ball to Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina

Vondrousova previously said she believes she will be facing ‘super woman’ when she takes on Svitolina in the semi-finals.

Svitolina is inspiring new mothers across the world with her run to the last four, just nine months after giving birth to her daughter Skai.

‘It’s incredible what she did. She received a wild card and she’s in semis. It’s incredible,’ said Czech 24-year-old Vondrousova. ‘I feel like it’s such a short time after a baby. She’s doing amazing things. Yeah, she’s a fighter and she’s playing so good. 

‘I think for us, we can see that we also can manage with a baby. It’s amazing.

‘She also did great job in Paris. Now she’s doing these things. Yeah, I mean, for me it’s incredible she can do this with a baby, and after such a long time also.

‘We chat a bit on Instagram. I’m with her all the way. She’s fighting so much for everything. Now she’s just playing amazing tennis also. She’s a super woman, I think.’

Vondrousova, the world number 42, pulled off a shock by beating fourth seed Jessica Pegula in the quarter-finals.

Vondrousova was full of praise for Svitolina after the match - but the Ukrainian star (pictured) was left dejected during the game

Vondrousova was full of praise for Svitolina after the match – but the Ukrainian star (pictured) was left dejected during the game 

Feisty Svitolina (pictured) battled hard - but was ultimately on the back foot as a dominant Vondrousova won in two straight sets

Feisty Svitolina (pictured) battled hard – but was ultimately on the back foot as a dominant Vondrousova won in two straight sets

Vondrousova (back) became the first unseeded player to reach a Wimbledon semi-final after running Svitolina (foreground) hard in a match where she only picked up six games

Vondrousova (back) became the first unseeded player to reach a Wimbledon semi-final after running Svitolina (foreground) hard in a match where she only picked up six games

MailOnline can reveal the back story of Elina’s journey to fame and popular acclaim, and how it was always underpinned by steely focus and ambition, including how her tennis dream led her to start a new life away from her family when she was aged just 12.

We have traced Elina’s path from humble origins in Ukraine to become the world ranked number three player who has dedicated her success on court to the people of her war ravaged country.

Elina began playing tennis at the age of five in the Ukrainian city of Odesa where she lived with her sporting parents and her older brother Yulian, who is nine years older than her.

Speaking of her younger days in in an interview in 2013, she said: ‘I liked to play with amateurs for one or two dollars. For me it was a lot of money. I fought for every point, trying my best to win. Then I spent all the money on sweets.’

Her talent was recognised by businessman Yuriy Sapronov when he saw her play at one of his children’s tournaments.

He was so impressed with her that he offered to invest in her training at a tennis club in Kharkiv, around 350 miles from her home city.

Elina’s family decided to move to Kharkiv to pursue her coaching, but her mother could not immediately leave Odesa due to her own career as a professional bowls player.

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It meant that Elina had to go alone, spending hours practising on court before returning at night to her empty rented apartment in the eastern Ukrainian city. She carried on her solitary training regime for two months before her mother finally joined her.

Incredibly, she nearly missed out on her high-flying tennis career as a child because she preferred gymnastics.

But she decided to concentrate on tennis to impress her former swimmer mother Elena Svitolina, and her wrestler turned estate agent father Mikhaylo Svitolin.

Recalling her single-minded ambition, she told Elle Ukraine in 2018: ‘I was not only into tennis. There was running, basketball, and gymnastics [in my life].

‘I particularly liked gymnastics, it’s a very beautiful sport. Perhaps, at some point I wanted to be in gymnastics more, but it was necessary to choose.

‘Yulian is nine years older than me, he played [tennis] well, and all the attention of his parents was on him.

Elina began playing tennis at the age of five in the Ukrainian city of Odesa

Elina began playing tennis at the age of five in the Ukrainian city of Odesa

She grew up with her sporting parents and her older brother Yulian, who is nine years older than her

She grew up with her sporting parents and her older brother Yulian, who is nine years older than her

Elina¿s family decided to move to Kharkiv to pursue her coaching, but her mother could not immediately leave Odesa due to her own career as a professional bowls player

Elina’s family decided to move to Kharkiv to pursue her coaching, but her mother could not immediately leave Odesa due to her own career as a professional bowls player

Elina moved to Kharkiv and lived in an apartment alone while her mother wrapped up her career

Elina moved to Kharkiv and lived in an apartment alone while her mother wrapped up her career

‘Therefore, I wanted to do something so that my parents would pay attention to me. It has always been very motivating. Yulian had a back injury, he had no choice – he needed to recover. Then my parents turned [their attention] a little more on me.

‘I always wanted to be famous, I wanted to do something to make my parents proud of me. And my parents always motivate me, even now.’

She also told how she was forced to give away her beloved dog to her aunt as a teenager because she spent so much time training and could not look after her pet.

Elina said five-years-ago: ‘I had a dog, I planned that I would carry it everywhere with me. But Papillon is a breed that requires a lot of attention.

‘And when I come back from training, I don’t have so much energy anymore. I had to give the dog away and now it lives with my aunt and uncle and their children. So it’s all good.’

She talked of her family history in January last year in a two hour interview with prominent Ukrainian journalist Dmitry Gordon.

Elina recalled how she spent much of her time in Odesa with her Jewish grandmother Tamara because her parents were away so much trying to kickstart the tennis career of her brother who now lives and works as a tennis coach in Los Angeles.

Her grandmother took her to dance classes, and gymnastics and loyally watched her compete on Ukraine’s local amateur tennis circuit.

Her parents spent a lot of time away trying to kickstart the tennis career of her brother who now lives and works as a tennis coach in Los Angeles

Her parents spent a lot of time away trying to kickstart the tennis career of her brother who now lives and works as a tennis coach in Los Angeles

Elina recalled how she spent much of her time in Odesa with her Jewish grandmother Tamara

Elina recalled how she spent much of her time in Odesa with her Jewish grandmother Tamara

Her mother - a professional bowler - trained up to eight hours a day

Her mother – a professional bowler – trained up to eight hours a day

Describing the city of her youth, she said: ‘It was very kind [to me] and very fun because I always went to Yumorina (Odesa’s annual festival of humour) together with my grandma.

‘It was a celebration I was waiting for the whole year. And it was incredibly sweet for me to see that parade and be a part of that. Odesa is my hometown and it will always be that.

‘At first I lived in Uyutnaya Street. I have the best memories about the city. Although my parents travelled a lot with my elder brother when I was little, I stayed with my grandma.

‘My grandma is Jewish, so everything is [centred] around the family, and how to make it comfortable for the family.

Describing her grandmother as ‘a classic Jewish woman from Odesa’, she added: ‘Yes. She has everything… If you want to see an Odesa Jewish granny, you have to meet mine.’ She added: ‘She is my most dedicated supporter since my very childhood. While my parents were traveling with my brother, I played at some contests for children under ten, under 7, I remember my grandma was watching me.’

Aged 23, she also posed semi-naked for Ukrainian men's magazine XXL

Aged 23, she also posed semi-naked for Ukrainian men’s magazine XXL

The star recalled how she ended up living alone before her teenage years, saying: ‘We reached such a level in our family that we needed to move further.

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‘From Odesa either abroad, or find some coach, because I started playing at a certain level. There was a coach from Kharkiv who, as it turned out later, was in a club sponsored by Yuri Sapronov. And it turned out that Yuri was looking for young talents.’

She added: ‘At that time my mum was into professional bowling. My mom is very competitive, and likes achieving.

‘It was important that before we move to Kharkiv… Mum had to wrap it up with professional bowling despite her competing at the national championships.

‘She trained for seven to eight hours a day. For the first couple of months I was in Kharkiv alone. I was in a rented apartment.

‘In the morning I was picked up by the coach. At the end of the day I was brought back to the apartment. And it was very important for me to be back before it got dark. I was a very shy child. Those were my first steps to independent life.’

Elina Svitolina's (pictured) incredible Wimbledon adventure came to an end on Thursday

Elina Svitolina’s (pictured) incredible Wimbledon adventure came to an end on Thursday

Vondrousova reacting after her win against Svitolina on Centre Court

Vondrousova reacting after her win against Svitolina on Centre Court

Elina agreed the regime was hard work, saying: ‘Yes, yes. But I am grateful for that time because I became more independent. At the weekends I was walking around Kharkiv by myself to learn what to show my mum when she visits.’

Describing her life as a 12-year-old living alone, she said: ‘Kharkiv is a very interesting city, totally different from Odesa. People are not as open, that’s what I remember the most. That city fit me a lot, I lived close to a park.’

She also told how she family struggled to make ends meet during her younger days before she became a poster girl for Ukrainian sport.

Elina said: ‘When we moved to Kharkiv, it was a crisis time. My dad was into the real estate business, and it was very hard. And when my mom arrived, we had a budget, not a very big one, which we could spend on food.’

Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko and his wife Inna Prystaiko watched the action from the Royal Box

Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko and his wife Inna Prystaiko watched the action from the Royal Box 

Svitolina embraces  Vondrousova following their match

Svitolina embraces  Vondrousova following their match

Vondrousova celebrates her 6-3 6-3 victory against Svitolina on Centre Court

Vondrousova celebrates her 6-3 6-3 victory against Svitolina on Centre Court

Recalling how her parents shared her ambition, she said: ‘They told me that I should have spent my time on tennis only. It was a big thing, I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere, I almost didn’t see my friends when I was a teenager.

Elina had time to qualify as a nutritionist after studying in Canada, and has in the past talked about how she eats a healthy diet without any meat or fish.

But her dedication to tennis led to her breaking into the ranks of the world’s top 50 players when she was aged 18, the top 20 two years later and the top ten in 2017 after a string of tournament victories.

She went on to reach semi-finals in Wimbledon and the US Open in 2019 and became Ukraine’s first ever Olympic winner at tennis when she scooped a bronze medal at the Tokyo games in 2021.

Svitolina appeared to be weighed down with the expectation as she played on Centre Court

Svitolina appeared to be weighed down with the expectation as she played on Centre Court 

The rivals embraced after Vondrousova ended Svitolina's dreams in the women's singles semi-final on day 11 of Wimbledon

The rivals embraced after Vondrousova ended Svitolina’s dreams in the women’s singles semi-final on day 11 of Wimbledon

Elina admits she is now a wealthy woman after earning an estimated $15 million in prize money in the last four years, although she claims to ‘live very modestly’. 

Forbes has estimated that she makes over $1 million a year in advertising contracts alone.

But she insists that she invests the bulk of her income in her career, although her wealth has earned her homes in Kyiv, London and Monaco where she lives with her French tennis player husband Gaël Monfils.

She still returns to Ukraine twice year in July and November to visit her grandmother, showering her with gifts of flowers and sweets.

Elina who drives a Mercedes given to her by her husband as a wedding present after they married in Geneva in 2021 is said to spend around $400,000 a year on running her team.

Ukrainian footballer Mykhailo Mudryk looked emotional as Svitolina was beaten by her ribal

Ukrainian footballer Mykhailo Mudryk looked emotional as Svitolina was beaten by her ribal

Svitolina was left shrieking, screeching and squealing in exasperation over and over again as Vondrousova frustrated the Ukrainian

Svitolina was left shrieking, screeching and squealing in exasperation over and over again as Vondrousova frustrated the Ukrainian

She has a head coach, a fitness trainer, a physiotherapist and a psychologist on her payroll while her father remains her business adviser who helps to manage her range of ‘careful’ investments in real estate, stocks and shares, the energy business and collecting fine wines.

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But she insists: ‘I am yet learning to treat myself, because until some time ago I didn’t know how much money I had. I like saving on everything.’

She has also used her success to help promising young tennis players, through her Elina Svitolina Foundation, and has been an ambassador of the United24 fundraising platform since June 2022.

Elina has refused to play in Russia since 2018. She also declines to talk to Russian media.

She has visited war torn areas of Ukraine and has also received a thank you letter from President Zelensky for the support she has shown her country.

Vondrousova said her rival was a 'fighter' for reaching the last four of a Grand Slam

Vondrousova said her rival was a ‘fighter’ for reaching the last four of a Grand Slam

Vondrousova said after the match: 'I cannot believe it. I am very happy that I made the final'. Seen her celebrating her win

Vondrousova said after the match: ‘I cannot believe it. I am very happy that I made the final’. Seen her celebrating her win

In February this year she posted from the city of Irpin where she he added $20,000 to fundraising efforts to renovate a residential building damaged after shelling.

Just weeks later she posted a photo of herself wearing military fatigues of Ukrainian volunteer unit Khartiya (Charter) which became a brigade of the National Guard.

Before meeting her husband in 2018, she had a well publicised romance with England cricketer Reece Topley.

She and her husband Monfils, 36, started dating secretly after meeting at a tennis players’ party in New York and swapping phone numbers.

The couple married in Geneva in 2021, surrounded by friends and family, with influencer Valeria Potlova as Elina’s bridesmaid.

Elina recalled: ‘Yes, we had a very soulful wedding. There were not too many people, because it was difficult to have something big because of covid [restrictions].

‘It was one of the first times when my and Gael’s parents were at the same event. Of course, there was a language barrier because his parents don’t speak English, only French, and my parents don’t speak French.’

She admitted in another interview how her and her husband had their ‘own money’, but also a shared budget.

The player added: ‘When you earn big money, you always need a marriage agreement, especially when both sides have their own big projects and big expenses. This is normal.’

Elina’s mother Elena admitted in an interview with Sport Segodnya in 2017 that her daughter was shy as a chid.

She said: ‘Elina didn’t like to talk to the coach or to anyone at all. We warned him that the girl was not talkative, although at home she was a cheerful and active child. But not in public. For three years – somewhere from five to eight years old – she didn’t talk to anyone at all when training.’

Elina and her French tennis player husband Gaël Monfils (pictured on holiday) started dating secretly after meeting at a tennis players' party in New York

Elina and her French tennis player husband Gaël Monfils (pictured on holiday) started dating secretly after meeting at a tennis players’ party in New York

The couple now have a child - and Elina stunned crowds by coming back to perform so well just nine months after giving birth

The couple now have a child – and Elina stunned crowds by coming back to perform so well just nine months after giving birth 

The tennis power-couple got married in a 'soulful' wedding in Geneva in 2021 surrounded by friends and family. Pictured: Posing for a holiday snap on the back of a boat

The tennis power-couple got married in a ‘soulful’ wedding in Geneva in 2021 surrounded by friends and family. Pictured: Posing for a holiday snap on the back of a boat

‘She started going to school Number 35 with intensive English, and studied there until Year Four. She started training seriously, needed to go to contests, and they didn’t quite understand it at the school. We transferred her to an Olympic reserve school.’

Talking at the time of her daughter’s relationship with cricketer Topley, she recalled how she had met them together for the first time in Monaco.

She said: ‘Elina has an apartment there, and he flew to her for two days. They rarely see each other, because he himself is an athlete and he only has Saturday and Sunday off. And he flew to Roland Garros.

‘The boy is very good. I like him. Calm, attentive. Some classic English restraint. They met last fall, but at first Elina did not tell us about him. In general, I don’t want to talk about it strongly, because it’s very difficult to build relationships with her and his lifestyle.

‘These are very rare encounters. Hopefully they will work it out. I saw his family in London at Wimbledon – they came and supported Elina. I understand she liked his family.

‘And the boy loves his parents, treats his mother very tenderly. He lives separately from his parents from the age of 18, he has his own house. That is, the boy is completely independent, and I have an image of a gentleman, a calm person, but who knows exactly what he wants. ‘

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