After Elina Svitolina’s battle to reach the Wimbledon final came the battle to hold back tears as she contemplated what it would have all meant for her country.
The 28 year-old Ukrainian knew this was a golden chance to win something of huge wider significance, facing an opponent who this time a year ago was in London purely as a tourist, recuperating from wrist surgery.
But then Svitolina herself was heavily pregnant at that time, and she has nothing to reproach herself for after falling just short.
She never quite turned up on Centre Court on Thursday and ended up losing 6-3 6-3 to the mesmerising game of elegant lefthander Marketa Vondrousova.
Instead of Ukraine versus Belarus in Saturday’s final it will be Tunisia versus the Czech Republic – no embarrassment in terms of royal protocols, and no comparison with the symbolism that would have been in play.
Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova emerged victorious from her Wimbledon semi-final
She beat Elina Svitolina (pictured) 6-3 6-3 in 75 minutes to reach her second Grand Slam final
Vondrousova consoled Svitolina at the net who congratulated the winner in different scenes to the ending of the Ukrainian’s match with Victoria Azarenka where there was no handshake
Svitolina was inconsolable that she will not be there for one more fight. She was on a flight back to France on Thursday night to be reunited with her daughter Skai and husband Gael Monfils.
‘Right now I’m just really upset that I couldn’t go further,’ said the moist-eyed world number 76, who admitted that everything had weighed heavily upon her.
‘For sure it’s a big motivation, but it’s a lot of responsibility, a lot of tension. I tried to balance it as much as I can. Sometimes it got maybe too much. But I don’t want to take it as an excuse that I lost today.
‘I had to deal with the situation maybe a bit better. But I wouldn’t say I was too nervous. It was just I should have find a better way to deal with Marketa’s game style. She’s very tricky opponent, she gets lots of balls back.’
Before departing she expressed her gratitude to British tennis fans who willed her on, ultimately to no avail as she made too many mistakes in trying to cope with the unusual variety of angles and spins that Vondrousova is able to produce.
‘I’m really thankful for the crowd who supported me.. They support us quite a lot in different kind of ways, a lot of Ukrainians who arrived here when the war started.’
Svitolina hopes that the success of Ukrainian players at Wimbledon will push the WTA Tour to be more supportive of them. As a group they still feel marginalised, and there is currently a dispute between the body and the coach of Lesia Tsurenko over things he is alleged to have said. The tour insist they have been fair in their dealings.
The fact remains that the tour will move on from here, the war will continue, and the whole situation involving the Ukrainians will have less spotlight than it has garnered in recent weeks.
Svitolina waved goodbye to the crowd as her hopes of securing a famous Wimbledon title for Ukraine were dashed by the latest star to roll off the Czech production line in Vondrousova
Vondrousova admitted to being ‘crazy nervous’ as she described Svitolina as a ‘fighter’
Svitolina sometimes looked bamboozled by Vondrousova, who at 42 becomes the second lowest ranked player to make the Wimbledon final in modern times, aside from when Serena Williams did it with a nominal listing of 181 five years ago.
Her return from missing six months of last year has attracted less publicity than Svitolina but is equally surprising in some ways.
During last summer’s Wimbledon she came simply as a visitor with her wrist in a cast after double surgery, combining a week’s holiday in the capital with supporting her friend and doubles partner Miriam Kolodziejova.
‘We visited London Eye, that kind of stuff. We went shopping and went to some nice restaurants, I think we went shopping five times, it was kind of crazy. We just went to the city like we were like normal tourists,’ she recalled.
She had defeated Jo Konta in the 2019 French Open semi-final after an excellent start by the British player and is a mercurial talent with a swinging serve who can play every shot in the book. Another from the hugely effective Czech system, she actually comes from the same club in Prague that produced the recent French Open finalist Karolina Muchova.
Apart from a nervous wobble at 4-0 up in the second set that saw her lose three straight games she was always in charge. Svitolina was dispatched, and she received a huge ovation as she left the Centre Court.
Svitolina was struggling for the consistency that marked out her previous matches, and it could hardly be argued that the Czech was not worth her victory