Elina Svitolina (Ukr) by Iga Swiatek (Pol, 1) 7-5/6-7/6-2
By Charlie Stong on Centre Court at Wimbledon
She gave birth just six months ago and required a wildcard to qualify for this year’s Championships, but world number 76 Elina Svitolina is through to the semi-finals of Wimbledon after today knocking out top seed, and world number one, Iga Swiatek.
The Ukrainian held her nerve to win by two sets to one in just under three hours on Centre Court – a match which started outside and finished under the roof was surely the contest of the Championships so far, and what a story Svitolina is giving us.
She won the first set 7-5, despite being broken in the very first game of the match, Swiatek producing a fine drop shot to bring up break point, before the Ukrainian produced a double fault.
The number one seed settled into her game immediately, holding her first service game to love, pouncing on anything short from her opponent.
However the Svitolina did hold her next service game for 1-2.
Both women were finding their form by now – Swiatek hitting a fabulous forehand cross-court winner while down on her knees on the baseline in the next game.
But Swiatek’s extra power was being matched by Svitolina’s defence. The Ukrainian forced a break for 2-2 after Swiatek hit a forehand wide and another into the net.
However Svitolina was struggling on her own serve, netting a forehand to give the tournament favourite the lead again at 3-2 with a break, before Swiatek took control of the set with a comfortable hold to 15.
Svitolina served out a simpler game to take it to 3-4, then put the world number one under serious pressure on her own serve – first forcing 0-30 then taking the game to deuce three times.
However, Swiatek was doing just enough, and forced an error on the Svitolina forehand to take the game.
Swiatek then heaped huge pressure on Svitolina by taking a 0-30 lead in the next game, but Svitolina was not going away, the Ukrainian producing four consecutive points, finishing with a fine forehand winner, which would force the top seed to serve for the set.
But just when she needed it most, Svitolina produced some of her very best tennis, hitting a succession of huge forehand returns with depth to break Swiatek to love for 5-5.
A run of eight consecutive points for the Ukrainian was only interrupted by a double fault, and she gathered her composure to serve out to 15 – a lead for the first time in the match at 6-5, now forcing Swiatek to serve to save it.
The Pole was immediately under pressure again at 0-30. Svitolina pounced on a short second serve at 15-30, and all of a sudden had two set points, taking the first of the two when Swiatek hit a backhand volley wide.
With rain approaching there was then a break of 20 minutes when it was decided to close the roof, effectively turning and outdoor match into an indoor one.
But the change didn’t affect Svitolina’s run of success – she held her first service game after the break to love to move ahead in the second set.
Swiatek was, however, able to halt the Ukrainian’s run of five consecutive games with a relatively comfortable hold.
Then came a potentially huge turning point. Svitolina, 40-0 up on her serve, had the simplest of tasks of tapping a forehand over the net with her opponent stranded at the back of the court to secure the game, but she inexplicably hit the ball into the net, and allowed Swiatek to come roaring back to take the game – and the second set’s first break of service.
Swiatek was inspired, and held to 15 for a 3-1 lead, producing a rasping double-handed backhand across the court to take the game.
But Svitolina would not go away in the set, she held her next game, and a thunderous forehand return, followed by a double fault from Swiatek, gave her break points in the next game, a chance she duly took to level at 3-3.
A love service game saw the world number 67 ahead at 4-3, mounting pressure on Swiatek, who held her next service game to 30.
And the Ukrainian showed unbelievable determination in the next game, saving three break points before taking a 5-4 lead, meaning the world number one would have to serve to stay in the Championships.
She did so by serving out one of her more comfortable games of the match to level at 5-5, but Svitolina was fighting like a champion, and produced a low backhand return cross-court to edge ahead once again, at 6-5.
Swiatek took it to a tie-break by holding to 15 but Svitolina made the first move in the breaker, securing a mini-break for 2-1 when Swiatek hit a forehand long.
Two excellent serves, the second an ace, gave the Ukrainian a 4-1 advantage, which quickly became 4-3 when the world number one held her next two points.
Svitolina edged ahead at 5-4 on a point which Swiatek felt had started with an undetected net cord. And a blistering forehand down the line levelled things at 5-5.
Swiatek’s cross-court backhand then set up set point, and when Svitolina hit long it was one set all.
A wide forehand from Swiatek on her second service game gave Svitolina two break points., and although she saved those, a backhand long on the third gave Svitolina the first break of the deciding set at 2-1.
Swiatek threatened in the next game, recovering from 40-0 to deuce on the Svitolina serve, but the Ukrainian held her nerve to move into a 3-1 lead – and then a decisive 4-1 advantage when Swiatek netted a forehand.
She backed-up her double break at 5-1 thanks to two aces, and the world number one was almost beaten.
She did manage to hold in the next game to at least make Svitolina serve it out, which she did, emphatically.
Pictured top: Elina Svitolina celebrates victory over Iga Swiatek (Picture: PA)
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