Wimbledon 2023: Ukraine's Elina Svitolina returns from maternity leave, beats top-ranked Iga Swiatek

Svitolina will next face Marketa Vondrousova for a spot in Saturday’s final. It will be the Ukrainian player’s second appearance in the Wimbledon semifinals.
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina returns to Poland's Iga Swiatek in Wimbledon, July 11, 2023. (Photo | AP)
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina returns to Poland's Iga Swiatek in Wimbledon, July 11, 2023. (Photo | AP)

WIMBLEDON, England: Three months after returning from maternity leave, Elina Svitolina reached the Wimbledon semifinals by beating top-ranked Iga Swiatek 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-2 Tuesday.

The 28-year-old Ukrainian gave birth to her daughter in October and returned to the WTA tour in April. She received a wild-card entry to the grass-court tournament one month after reaching the quarterfinals at the French Open.

“First of all I’m going to have a beer, probably,” Svitolina said on court. “At the beginning of the tournament if someone would tell me that I will be in the semifinal and beating world No. 1, I would just say that they’re crazy.”

Swiatek, a four-time major champion, won her third French Open title last month but was playing in the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time.

At one point, Svitolina won 20 of 22 points against Swiatek on Centre Court, including 16 of the final 18 points in the first set.

“My forehand wasn’t the best. I’ll still work on it,” Swiatek said. “But honestly, it’s hard for me to, like, point (to) one thing what failed exactly. I think Elina was just overall playing aggressively and giving it all in every shot.”

Svitolina will next face Marketa Vondrousova for a spot in Saturday’s final. It will be the Ukrainian player’s second appearance in the Wimbledon semifinals. She lost to eventual champion Simona Halep at that stage in 2019.

“I’m just going to enjoy tonight and then get some treatment, get some massage, much needed and then just regroup and be ready for the next big battle,” Svitolina said.

Svitolina has been ranked as high as No. 3 in the world and also reached the U.S. Open semifinals in 2019. She is currently ranked 76th. To reach the semifinals this year, she has beaten four Grand Slam champions — Venus Williams in the first round, Sofia Kenin in the third, Victoria Azarenka in the fourth and Swiatek in the quarterfinals.

Vondrousova won five straight games in the final set to beat fourth-seeded Jessica Pegula 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 on No. 1 Court. The left-handed Czech who reached the French Open final in 2019 trailed 4-1 in the third set but didn’t lose another game after that.

“I’m just trying to stay in every game. It can change pretty quickly,” Vondrousova said. “She got so much better in the second set. She was pushing me today.”

Pegula is now 0-6 in Grand Slam quarterfinals. The 29-year-old American was playing at this stage at Wimbledon for the first time.

Vondrousova had won only four matches on grass heading into the tournament at the All England Club. But she has won five in a row on the surface over the last eight days.

“My best result here was second round. It’s amazing. I’m just loving grass now,” Vondrousova said.

The victory for Vondrousova is her fourth over a seeded player at this year’s Wimbledon tournament. She beat No. 12 Veronika Kudermetova in the second round, No. 20 Donna Vekic in the third round and No. 32 Marie Bouzkova in the fourth round.

Pegula was leading 3-1 in the third set when play was suspended so that the roof over No. 1 Court could be closed with rain approaching. Pegula then held serve in the next game to lead 4-1 before Vondrousova took over.

In the men’s quarterfinals, eighth-seeded Jannik Sinner beat Roman Safiullin 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 on No. 1 Court.

Later Tuesday, seven-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic was facing Andrey Rublev on Centre Court.

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