Elina Svitolina makes quarter-finals on ‘incredibly sad day for all Ukrainians’

Elina Svitolina broke down in tears on court after reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals on the same day a Russian missile struck a children’s hospital in Kyiv.

The Ukrainian wore a black ribbon on her top during her 6-2 6-1 victory over Wang Xinyu and any feelings of satisfaction were dwarfed by sadness at the ongoing horrors in her home country.

Svitolina had to pause during her on-court interview as the emotions overwhelmed her, with at least 31 people killed in attacks across Ukraine.

Writing on Instagram, Svitolina described it as one of the most difficult matches of her life, saying: “Wimbledon has become black for me today.”

“It’s an incredibly sad day today for all Ukrainians,” added the 29-year-old in her press conference. “It was really difficult for me to really be here in a way and do anything. I just wanted to be in my room, just be there with my emotions, with everything.

“It’s difficult really to explain, I guess, because, of course, for us Ukrainians, it’s very close to our heart and a very sensitive topic, very sensitive emotions that we feel every single day.

“But today was one of the days where it was even more difficult because the missile landed on the hospital, the kids’ hospital. Straightaway you see the images and everything that happened there. So many kids lost their lives. It’s an extremely tough day today.”

Emergency workers respond to a missile strike at the Okhmatdyt children’s hospital
Emergency workers respond to a missile strike at the Okhmatdyt children’s hospital in Kyiv (Alex Babenko/AP)

Svitolina admitted she feels guilty when she celebrates achievements on the court or experiences happiness in her life, and her motivation against Wang was to provide some good news for Ukrainians.

“I think for many Ukrainians they will share this feeling with me,” she said. “We feel guilt that we feel happy or that we feel good. Not only because I’m in the quarter-final of the grand slam, but in everything.

“Like, you go to holidays, you feel guilty because you’re not in Ukraine. Many people cannot leave the country. Many people are at the war. Many people are fighting, defending our front lines. I think we’ve been living with this feeling for over two years.

“Of course, this is one of the things that motivated me today, was just I have to put my head down and show up and do my best, my very best. Every Ukrainian is using their own way to raise awareness, to raise money, to help in every possible way they can.

Elina Svitolina puts her hand on her heart
Elina Svitolina puts her hand on her heart (John Walton/PA)

“My way is through tennis. I tried to be focused on my job, tried to be focused on what I can control. I’m playing, of course, such an amazing event as Wimbledon. I have to also think about how I can use that in a way for Ukrainian people.

“At least with my win today, it was a small light that brought a happy moment for Ukrainian people. I got so many messages today. The people are thankful for my performance, for my win today. Of course, it brings me a lot of, let’s say, joy in a way on this sad day.”

Svitolina went on an emotional run to the semi-finals here last year and is looking for a repeat but, if she is to achieve that, she must beat fourth seed and title favourite Elena Rybakina.

The 25-year-old, who switched from representing Russia to Kazakhstan six years ago, is bidding to lift the trophy for the second time in three years.

Svitolina refuses to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian players at the end of matches but will have no problem doing so with Rybakina, saying: “She changed her nationality, so it means she doesn’t want to represent her original country, so it works.”

Rybakina has seen her fellow title favourites fall around her but she had an easy passage through to the last eight after Anna Kalinskaya retired with a wrist injury trailing 6-3 3-0.

The Russian, watched by boyfriend Jannik Sinner, had led 3-1 but took a medical time-out after the seventh game before eventually pulling the plug.

Rybakina is the highest seed left and the only player to have previously made the final here, while she has now won 18 of her 20 matches at Wimbledon.