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DEFYING THE ODDS, INSPIRING A NATION AND REACHING CAREER HIGHS



It has been a remarkable comeback for new mum and former World No.3 Elina Svitolina.

Only four players reached at least the quarterfinals at both the French Open and Wimbledon this year.


World No.1 Iga Swiatek, World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka, World No.7 Ons Jabeur…and World No.508 Elina Svitolina.


The 28-year-old Ukrainian gave birth to her first child in October last year, returning to the tour officially in April before launching a stunning run to the final eight at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.


With the world in awe at such results within months of giving birth, Svitolina admits the comeback was earlier than expected.


“I wanted to come back a bit later. I had some other goals, my personal goals,” she revealed this week.


“But then when I start training, a lot of people, like, for example, some coaches from Gael’s team (husband Gael Monfils), my coaches, and some coaches at the club who saw me playing, they were like, you’re playing unbelievable, you should come back, you should do it earlier.


“Then this motivated me, and this gave me this energy, even more, to train even harder and to push myself harder, and my body gave me a chance to and handled it well.”


Svitolina lost four of her first five matches on return in April, at W60 AND W100 level, with her ranking sitting at 1344 at the time.


Since that time, she has won 17 of 22, including a WTA title at Strasbourg, and with nine of those wins coming at grand slams.


She has catapulted back to 76 in the live rankings, meaning she has climbed 1268 places in 84 days, or 15 a day on average.


Svitolina had reached the quarterfinals just once in her previous five slams before taking a break in March 2022, and both previous career semifinals came in 2019 at Wimbledon and the US Open.


This result equals her personal best at both the French Open and at Wimbledon, with some other staggering statistics.


At Wimbledon she defeated three straight grand slam champions (Kenin, Azarenka, Swiatek) and four overall (Venus Williams) in the five matches. No other player has beaten four slam champions in the same event in the last seven years.


Svitolina’s story has drawn praise from rivals such as America’s top seed Jessica Pegula.


"It's amazing what she's done. It's such an incredible story.” Pegula said at Wimbledon this week.


“Obviously her being Ukrainian, having a baby, coming back, beating Iga. There's so many dynamics.


Yeah, it's crazy to think that she's done that. But I feel like she's been competing so well. It seems like she has a lot of fire and competitive spirit in her, whether it's for whatever reason.


Pegula reflected on the time away from the game and how she has come back refreshed and fit.


“But it seems like she's really rejuvenated after having a baby and taking some time off. I remember playing her at the end before she was pregnant and stuff.


It seemed like maybe she kind of lost her spark. I feel like she came back ready to go and wanting to prove something.


Svitolina spoke on twitter at the time of her break last year.


"It's been an extremely difficult couple of months for me, not only mentally but also physically," Svitolina said at the time.


"For quite a long time I've been struggling with my back.


"Observing with unbearable pain in my heart at what is happening in my homeland Ukraine ... gave me a desire to fight on. Now, my body can't handle it anymore and I need to rest."


Also blown away by the Svitolina story has been three-time Wimbledon champion Chris Evert who was brought to tears after her quarterfinal victory over Swiatek.


“You’re going to make me cry right now. One of the most touching matches I’ve ever seen on Centre Court,” Evert said.


“To see her so inspired and playing so well is just very touching for me.”


The 28-year-old has made no secret of her desire to deliver victories for her home country and she said the reaction to her progress at the tournament to her comeback has warmed her heart.


“I’m happy I can bring a little happiness to their lives. There were many videos on the internet where the kids are watching on their phones,” Svitolina said.


“This really makes my heart melt seeing this.”


Svitolina hasn’t missed the last 16 at the US Open in seven years, and has made a quarterfinal and a semifinal at her last two visits to Flushing Meadows.


Just maybe the 2023 fairytale story isn’t done with yet.

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