Tearful Elina Svitolina gives ‘small light’ to Ukraine at Wimbledon after missile strikes on Kyiv

A tearful Elina Svitolina hopes to give a “small light” to Ukraine after victory at Wimbledon following missile attacks on Kyiv.

The 21st seed was left in tears after her comprehensive win over Xinyu Wang (6-2, 6-1) following missile strikes on five Ukrainian cities, with the country’s main children's hospital in Kyiv hit.

The strikes have left at least 36 people dead and injured almost 130 others, with Svitolina admitting she did not want to play tennis and would have preferred to “just be in my room, just be there with my emotions.”

Her victory sets up a quarter-final against the current favourite and 2022 champion Elena Rybakina, who was born in Russia but now represents Kazakhstan.

”It's an incredibly sad day today for all Ukrainians,” Svitolina said. “It was really difficult for me to really be here in a way and do anything.

“You know, when you have these sad days where you don't want to do anything, it was this kind of day for me. It's difficult really to explain, I guess, because of course for us Ukrainians, it's very close to our heart and 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.”

Elina Svitolina of Ukraine waves after defeating Xinyu Wang of China (AP)
Elina Svitolina of Ukraine waves after defeating Xinyu Wang of China (AP)

Like boxer Oleksandr Usyk, in his undisputed heavyweight world title fight victory over Tyson Fury, and the Ukrainian men’s national football team performing at Euro 2024, Svitolina insists her sporting performances can help raise awareness of Ukraine’s desperate situation.

“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,” she added.

“My way is through tennis. This what's really motivated me today to do something. I tried to be focused on my job, tried to be focused on what I can control. Just do what I can in a way.

“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's brings me a lot of, let's say, joy in a way of this sad day.”

Elena Rybakina advanced to the last eight (PA Wire)
Elena Rybakina advanced to the last eight (PA Wire)

Rybakina halted the run of big-name exits in the women’s draw by advancing to the quarter-finals when opponent Anna Kalinskaya withdrew mid-match.

The fourth seed is the highest-ranked player left in the draw and the only woman to have previously made a Wimbledon final after her victory over Ons Jabeur two years ago.

Russian Kalinskaya, who was again watched by boyfriend and men’s world number one Jannik Sinner, made a great start under the roof on Centre Court but took a medical time-out for treatment to her right arm after seven games and shook hands trailing 6-3 3-0.

“Well, she's a tough opponent,” Rybakina said of Svitolina. “She reads the game well. She defends pretty good. Some slices here and there. It's not going to be easy, of course.

“But if I play aggressive, I'm going to serve well, I have all the chances to win of course. I will try to focus on myself and see how it goes.”


Elsewhere, former French Open champion and Latvian 13th seed Jelena Ostapenko brushed aside Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva 6-2 6-3 to reach Wimbledon's last eight for the third time.