Svitolina channelling “big motivation” to win for her country against Victoria Azarenka

The Ukrainian has revealed that matches against Russians and Belarusians provide an extra motivation to win, as she hopes Ukrainians will be watching

Elina Svitolina, Wimbledon, 2023 Elina Svitolina in action at Wimbledon 2023 Action Plus / Panoramic

Elina Svitolina has revealed that there will be an extra level of motivation against Victoria Azarenka, when she takes on the Belarusian in the fourth round of Wimbledon.

Speaking to the BBC, the Ukrainian former world No. 3 said that, while competing against players from Russia and Belarus is now something she has done several times since her country was invaded, it will still provide an added incentive to win.

“I’m playing for my country every single match that I play and this one will be even more special,” Svitolina said.

“A lot of Ukrainians will be watching, will be supporting me. I will go out there and put the fighting spirit on and just really fight for every single point.

“I just try to take it as a big motivation.”

Svitolina thriving on return to WTA Tour

Svitolina’s highly successful return to tennis after giving birth just nine months ago has been one of the defining stories of the season.

Having worked her way back into form and full fitness by dropping onto the Challenger circuit to get more matches under her belt, the Ukrainian then took her 17th WTA title in Strasbourg, before a brilliant and unexpected run to the last eight of Roland-Garros.

The former world No. 3 has now navigated her way back to the fourth round of Wimbledon, playing wonderful tennis to take out big-name opponents as she eyes a return to the top of the women’s rankings.

Stance on no handshakes remains steadfast

Svitolina again reiterated her stance not to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian players while the war in her country is ongoing – something which is now well-understood and generally accepted by most players from these countries.

That did not prevent Aryna Sabalenka from waiting at the net for a handshake she knew was not going to come, following her quarter-final victory over Svitolina at Roland-Garros last month.

“Definitely there was a lot of misunderstanding in Paris because in Strasbourg everyone understood my position as well, so hopefully it will be the same understanding in a way from the British crowd,” Svitolina said.

If Svitolina is to make a second consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final in as many appearances since returning from maternity leave, she will need to overturn a 5-0 losing record against Azarenka.

Win or lose on Sunday, it is patently evident that the fire is still burning bright in Elina Svitolina. That fire will be even brighter against an opponent who will provide all the more reason to win for the indomitable Ukrainian.

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