Wimbledon Day 9: Svitolina knocks out Swiatek

Ukrainian upsets world No.1 to reach semi-finals

Elina Svitolina / Quarts de finale Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

A top seed bowed out, a defending champion advanced, a youngster broke new ground, and a ruthless lefty dismissed a No.4 seed. Here's what happened on Tuesday at Wimbledon.

Supermom Elina through to semis

Contesting just her second Grand Slam since returning from maternity leave, and just nine months after delivering her first daughter Skai, Elina Svitolina has stormed into the Wimbledon semi-finals with a courageous 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-2 over world No.1 Iga Swiatek on Tuesday.

Swiatek was carrying a 14-match winning streak and was keen to add a fifth major trophy to her fast-growing collection but Svitolina had other plans, the Ukrainian playing for a cause greater than herself as she advanced to the third Grand Slam semi-final of her career.

Svitolina is just the third wildcard in the Open Era to reach the women’s singles semi-finals at the All England Club and she will next take on former Roland-Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrousova.

“Means definitely a lot. I know that lots of people back in Ukraine watching,” said the former world No.3.

“I'm happy I can bring little happiness to their life. There were many videos also on Internet where the kids are watching on their phones. This really makes my heart melt seeing this. Just happy I could bring little happiness to people of Ukraine.”

In a thrilling Centre Court affair, top seed Swiatek served for the opening set at 5-4 but committed a string of errors to lose three games in a row and hand over the 57-minute first set to Svitolina. The second set saw the pair exchange breaks before heading into a tiebreak. Swiatek clawed her back from 1-4 down to secure the breaker and level the match.

Svitolina was unfazed as she raced to a 5-1 lead in the decider and completed her stunning victory two games later on the two-hour 51-minute mark.

“At the beginning of the tournament if someone would tell me that I would be in the semi-final and beating the world No.1, I would just say that they are crazy,” said Svitolina, who now owns seven victories over reigning world No.1s.

“Iga is not only a great champion, she's also an unbelievable person. She was one of the first ones that really helped Ukrainian people. It's not easy to play against someone that you share a lot of good moments with.”

Svitolina’s route to the semis has seen her defeat four Grand Slam champions in five rounds having also overcome Venus Williams, Sofia Kenin and Victoria Azarenka.

On her part, Swiatek admits her forehand let her down on Tuesday and vows to come back stronger. She also revealed she will backing Svitolina the rest of the way.

“I think overall, looking at her career, having Grand Slam title would be pretty amazing for her. She's coming back after becoming a mother. I’ll root for her, especially because we like each other as people. I told her on the net that I hope she win this tournament,” said the 22-year-old Pole.

Elina Svitolina et Iga Swiatek / Quarts de finale Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Vondrousova upsets Pegula

Czech lefty Vondrousova stared down a 1-4 deficit in the deciding set against world No.4 Jessica Pegula before she swept the next five games to complete a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 over the American.

The Olympic silver medallist punched her ticket to the Wimbledon semi-finals for the first time and described her emotions after a sensational victory.

“I was 1-4 down. She had break points for 5-1. You are not, like, in a good mood. I don't know, I just turn it around. I just kept believe in myself,” said the 24-year-old.

“After the match point, I couldn't believe it. We were playing amazing match. She is a great player. Yeah, I mean, I think everything just went on and, yeah, I just couldn't hold the tears.”

Marketa Vondrousova / Quarts de finale Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Pegula is now 0-6 in Grand Slam quarter-final matches as her search for a maiden major semi-final continues.

“Sucks to lose that way, having the lead in the third. I don't know what else to say, to be honest, so... That's it,” said the 29-year-old.

Asked if there was a piece of the puzzle missing for her to snap that quarter-final hoodoo, she said: “I have no idea. I don't know. I was one game away today almost. I don't really know what the answer is. I keep putting myself in good positions, but I guess it's not enough. I mean, I guess I was closer today. I really don't know.”

More milestones for Djokovic

In the 400th Grand Slam match of his career, Novak Djokovic dispatched world No.7 Andrey Rublev 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the 46th major semi-final of his career and equal Federer’s all-time record for most Grand Slam men’s singles semifinals reached.

The Serb is just the third player in history to contest 400 singles matches at the majors following Roger Federer and Serena Williams and will next square off with Italian Jannik Sinner.

“He was the best I faced him in a Grand Slam. It's also something that is expected from a player like him, who is a very hard worker, very dedicated to the sport, always tries to improve,” said Djokovic of Rublev, who is now 0-8 in major quarter-finals.

Andrey Rublev / Quarts de finale Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

“I can see the improvement without a doubt. I think today he played a terrific tennis. He was putting a lot of pressure, playing very quick, standing close to the line and trying to push me back in the court. He was managing to do that in some stages of the match.

“It was like a dogfight, to be honest, on the court. At some points of the match were so long and exhausting. Those games at the end of the third set where, yeah, basically the match was decided, to be honest.

“I felt like huge relief when I won the third set, and in the fourth again made the crucial break and held my nerves till the end.

“For sure the best quality tennis Rublev has played today that I have faced him in the previous matches in Grand Slams.”

Novak Djokovic / Quarts de finale Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Sinner’s breakthrough

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Italian Sinner reached the first Grand Slam semi-final of his career, on his fifth quarter-final appearance, courtesy of a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over Wimbledon debutant Roman Safiullin.

Sinner is just the third Italian man to make the final four at the Championships following Nicola Pietrangeli and Matteo Berrettini.

“It feels good. It means a lot to me. Obviously there is a lot of work behind this. Very happy that I can play my first semi-final here in this special place, a special surface. So let's see how it goes the next match,” said Sinner.

The world No.8 is the youngest man to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals since 2007 but quickly noted how 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz could change that stat on Wednesday should he defeat Holger Rune in their quarter-final.

"It's going to change because of Carlos," said Sinner with a laugh during his on-court interview. "But I'm still young and I'm still happy so... give me at least this feeling for one day!"

Jannik Sinner / Quarts de finale Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT