Wimbledon semi-final: Elina Svitolina v Marketa Vondrousova – live | Wimbledon 2023

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Key events

*Svitolina 2-3 Vondrousova Now then. Vondrousova takes pace off via slice and makes 0-30, then gets a second serve to attack. And when Svitolina goes long with a nondescript forehand – in fairness, because she didn’t read the shot before – she’s facing three break points. And Vondrousova only needs one, coaxing a forehand winner down the line! First blood to the Czech!

Svitolina 2-2 Vondrousova* Vondrousova, who’s never played on Centre – “Makes your knees shake a bit,” says Martina – has a helluva high ball-toss, and not that much pop on her serve. She gets to 40-15, though, then sticks a shot into the corner … only for Svitolina to power a backhand winner down the line, on the run. But then she nets a return, and the early jousting continues.

“This match could be really dull,” says Calvin Betton, our resident coach. “Will just depend if Svitolina holds her nerve really.”

*Svitolina 2-1 Vondrousova A step-in return fro Vondrousova prompts Svitolina to net for 30-15, but she can’t do anything with the foothold. Svitolina is hitting it harder, earlier and from further into court, dictating the play; Vondrousova hasn’t found her rhythm yet.

Svitolina 1-1 Vondrousova* Vondrousova serve volleys for 15-0, then slices a slow but perfectly directed ace out wide. She holds to 15.

“Svitolina has already beaten four slam champions to reach the semis,” emails Shankar Mony. “Venus, Kenin, Azarenka and Swiatek. If she goes all the way she might have to beat Sabalenka too. What is the most grand slam champions a player has beaten in a draw?”

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I’d be shocked if it was more than that because there can’t ever have been more winners around than there are now. In my lifetime watching tennis, there’ve mainly been dominant champs winning almost everything – Martina, Steffi, Monica, Martina, Venus, Serena – it’s only relatively recently that the bigguns have been snaffled by all sorts.

*Svitolina 1-0 Vondrousova (*denotes server) Down 30-0, Vondrousova slices and the ball clambers over the tape to get her into the match. In comms, Samia Mirza notes how effective that shot is for lefties; “We’re born with it,” adds Martina. But from there, Svitolina closes out, and looks really comfy out there.

Right, off we go – Svitolina to serve.

Today’s Cliff rig:

They’ve not yet found my mum.

Vondousova, meanwhile, has her own story – of course she does. One of her tattoos reads “No rain, no flowers”, and she had a terrible time with injury last season. But she’s here now, and if she can find her forehand, she’s a serious threat today.

And here come our players! The roof is closed, which is just as well because it’s raining in SW19 – though of course not in fabulous North London – and on outside courts, there’s no current action.

Sam Smith notes that Svitolina is hitting the ball harder than ever before – perhaps because she’s had a break – on the forehand and second serve in particular. And Clijsters points out that she hits a lot with Gael Monfils, her husband, and you’re doing that as a woman, you’ve got to up the pop to stay in rallies.

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Kim Clijsters didn’t win a major until she was a mother, and explains that having a child, gives you some perspective. She also says the time off allowed her to heal up some old injuries and work on some stuff – when she came back a couple of years later, she’d never felt fitter.

I cannot begin to describe my admiration for what Svitolina is doing. Just an absolutely incredible, powerful, urgent woman.


Hello and welcome to Wimbledon 2023 – day 11!

In the 1988 FA Cup, the two semi-finals featured Liverpool v Nottingham Forest and Luton Town v Wimbledon, which is to say that, before the games took place, it appeared certain that the winner would come from the first tie … except sport isn’t like that. Once the players are out on the grass, stuff happens – one of the main reasons we love it so much – and in the entire history of human competition, nothing has ever been less predictable – and in many ways, more fun – than women’s tennis is right now.

On the face of things, our matches today are just like those ones were: it’s almost inconceivable that either Marketa Vondrousova or Elina Svitolina has the game to see off either Ons Jabeur or Aryna Sabalenka. But first things first: before we consider tomorrow, let’s deal with today.

Vondrousova is an excellent all-round player, eliminating a seed in every round bar the first. She’s already made a major final, at Roland-Garros in 2019, and her crafty lefty solidity makes her a difficult opponent on any surface. Svitolina, meanwhile, is already one of the stories of the year, giving birth in October, returning to the tour three months later, and making the last eight in Paris – all the while contending with the fear, anger and desolation prompted by Russia’s invasion of her native Ukraine. To reach this stage, she’s dismissed a serious collection of talent – Venus Williams, Elise Mertens, Sofia Kenin, Victoria Azarenka and Iga Swiatek – and is fired by a fervour that is difficult to stop.

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She’s not the only one. Ons Jabeur isn’t just competing for herself but for an entire constituency of Arab women, underrepresented in tennis, sport and many other fields besides. Her desperation to win a Grand Slam moves us never mind her, and the momentum she’s built in first demolishing Petra Kvitova, then coming back to despatch Elena Rybakina – who edged her in last year’s final – assures her that, like Eastenders’ Irene and Troy, her time is now.

Problem being, across the net from her will stand Sabalenka who, until January of this year, was consumed by the same heartache. But then she won in Australia, meaning Jabeur’s blend of power and guile must overcome not just her concoction of power and power but her security and equilibrium: she knows she can win a biggie, and even if she never does again, it’s not the end of the world because she already has. If both players turn up we’ll be talking about one of the sporting encounters of the year, and after that, anything can happen – as the other Wimbledon proved 35 years ago.

Play: 1.30pm BST

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