Elina Svitolina’s storybook run at Wimbledon came to an agonizing end on Thursday as she lost her semifinal match against Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in straight sets.
Svitolina, a new mother from Ukraine who has become a symbol of defiance since the Russian invasion in February 2022 — especially so during her runs at the French Open and Wimbledon — fell to Vondrousova, 6-3, 6-3, on an error-filled afternoon under the roof on Centre Court.
For 10 days, Svitolina, who needed a wild card to get into the tournament, had played tennis with a combination of freedom and defiance that thrilled the British crowd, especially during her win over Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the fourth round, when she prevailed in a final set tiebreaker after Azarenka appeared to have the match all but won. Two days later, Svitolina toppled Iga Swiatek of Poland, the world No. 1 and four-time Grand Slam champion in another tense and emotional three-set triumph.
She spoke of how the war and being a new mother had changed her and her approach to tennis, even making her better because she had a new perspective on the sport.
“I don’t take difficult situations as like a disaster,” she said. “There are worse things in life. I’m just more calmer.”
But then she ran into Vondrousova, a talented and tricky left-handed player who may not have anything close to the resume of Swiatek and Azarenka — or Sofia Kenin or Venus Williams, two of Svitolina’s other victims at this tournament — but she played like she did.
Vondrousova, who was a ranked No. 1 in the world as a junior and reached the French Open final in 2019, is developing a habit of playing the spoiler. At the Tokyo Olympics she eliminated Naomi Osaka of Japan, the national hero and international star who had lit the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony, and went on to win the silver medal.