Ukraine attacks have Svitolina playing “in a fog” at Wimbledon

The recent Russian attacks on a children’s hospital in Ukraine were front of mind for Elina Svitolina in her match against Wang Xinyu on Monday

Elina Svitolina Wimbledon 2024 Chryslene Caillaud / Panoramic

Elina Svitolina breezed past Wang Xinyu 6-2, 6-1 to return to the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the second year in a row, but her day was far from peaceful on Monday.

The Ukrainian has shared that she played “in a fog” due to the recent Russian missile attacks that killed 36 people across her home country. Many children were among the deceased, with Ukraine’s largest children’s hospital one of the targets of the bombing.

“It was extremely tough. Like since the morning today, I felt like in a fog little bit with my thoughts, with my just feelings inside,” Svitolina revealed after the match, which she played wearing a black ribbon on her chest.

“It’s incredibly sad day today for all Ukrainians. 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. 

“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. 

“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 extremely tough day today.”

Preparation different for Svitolina

“Normally you are thinking all day from the morning about your match, about your opponent, about how you’re going to play,” Svitolina continued.

“Today was very quiet with my team, as well, because everyone is aware around me. Everyone knows what’s happening. 

“Was very calm. It was straightforward, to the point, what I have to do, one, two, three on the court.”

Svitolina credits the horrifying circumstances with her clarity of thought when she was on court against Xinyu.

“Maybe also that’s why I played really, really loose and, say, very focused on what I had to do. It was a lot of thoughts about what’s happening and how, like, sad and all these images that I have in my head about the children, all that horrible things.”

Celebration a struggle

Svitolina went on to outline the struggle that her and many other Ukrainians have felt over the past two years with the war raging back home.

“We feel guilt that we feel happy or that we feel good,” she confessed. “I think for many Ukrainians they will share this feeling with me.

“Not only because I’m in the quarterfinal 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. I mean, it’s nothing new. But of course, it’s not a pleasant feeling to have.”

Conflict still front of mind

The Ukrainian explained how the conflict is still front of mind for her, while mainstream coverage has dipped over recent months.

“I feel like the news are much calmer right now about what’s really going on,” she explained. “Us Ukrainians, we have our telegram channels, we have our families there who are telling us what’s happening. 

“For the rest of the world it’s less I think press are talking about it. When it’s not something that close to your heart, you don’t really go into these details because it’s normal human thing to not watch the horrible things that are happening around the world. 

“I don’t think they know much about what’s really happening.”

Svitolina sees tennis as the way she can contribute to the Ukrainian cause, using her platform to raise awareness. Through to another Wimbledon quarter-final, the No 21 seed is doing a fine job of that.

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