Vondrousova downs Svitolina to reach Wimbledon final

Marketa Vondrousova ended the inspiring run of Elina Svitolina to reach her first Wimbledon final.

Svitolina’s efforts amid war in her homeland of Ukraine and only nine months after giving birth to daughter Skai have been one of the stories of the tournament.

But her hopes of reaching a first grand slam final were ended in emphatic fashion by 24-year-old Czech Vondrousova, whose 6-3 6-3 victory makes her the first unseeded women’s finalist at Wimbledon since 1963.

Far more at home on clay than grass, this is Vondrousova’s first big grand slam run since she made the final at the French Open in 2019 as a teenager, losing to Ashleigh Barty.

She had beaten Svitolina comfortably in their last meeting in the semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and it was the same story here, despite the Ukrainian prompting hopes of a comeback in the second set.

Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, was in the Royal Box, with Svitolina’s run having provided cheer amid dark times for her compatriots back home.

Sergiy Stakhovsky celebrated the best moment of his career on Centre Court 10 years ago when he beat Roger Federer but that is a distant memory now as he prepares to return to the front line.

He told the Telegraph: “There’s not a person in Ukraine who isn’t following her story. She brings joy where there is despair, brings hope where there is misery. She is fulfilling a lot of things the Ukrainians need these days.”

Although it did not maintain its ban on Russian and Belarusian players, Wimbledon organisers have tried to show they are still on Ukraine’s side, welcoming 1,000 refugees to the Championships and helping Ukrainian players with training and accommodation costs.

They are also donating one pound for every fan who comes through the gates to the British Red Cross’ humanitarian work in Ukraine, with the total at £412,132 after 10 days.

Although the crowd were very much on Svitolina’s side, there will surely be a tinge of relief at the All England Club that the final cannot now see the Ukrainian take on Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in what would have been a hugely awkward occasion.

Svitolina has spoken at length about the new mindset she has brought with her on her return to tennis, as a new mother and as a result of the war, with on-court defeats no longer the disaster they might once have felt.

There was no doubt she desperately wanted to keep her run going, though, and suddenly she found herself perhaps the favourite against a similarly unexpected semi-finalist – this was the first time in the open era that a last-four clash here had featured two unseeded players.

The freedom with which Svitolina had progressed through her first five rounds was missing here, while Vondrousova is also a player who offers a frustrating lack of rhythm.

The Czech mixes big hits from the baseline with drop shots, lobs and short angles and she wrapped up the first set in less than half an hour, breaking Svitolina’s serve three times in a row.

Vondrousova may not be a household name but her talent has never been in question and she would surely have built on her French Open breakthrough earlier but for injury troubles.

The fans tried to will Svitolina, who lost both her previous slam semi-finals here and at the US Open in 2019, back into the match in the second set but Vondrousova was firmly in her groove and she moved to the brink of victory at 4-0.

Svitolina had fought back from almost as dire a position against Victoria Azarenka in the fourth round and she got a slight foothold by breaking the Vondrousova serve in a long fifth game.

The Czech can be a nervous closer and there were definite signs of tension as Svitolina broke again to get back on serve, with Vondrousova missing a collective six chances to move to within a game of victory.

Svitolina gave her a helping hand with another poor game, though, and Vondrousova made it across the line before her opponent departed Centre Court to a standing ovation.

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