By Pritha Sarkar
LONDON (Reuters) – It was 28th-time lucky for Elina Svitolina as she finally managed to get a grip on her nerves to become the first Ukrainian woman to reach the singles semi-finals of a Grand Slam, with a 7-5 6-4 win over Karolina Muchova on Tuesday.
Svitolina has long been expected to join the challenge for the biggest prizes in tennis but until Tuesday, all those attempts had fallen well short.
What was surprising was that the feat was achieved on Wimbledon’s rather threadbare lawns as the Ukrainian’s game is more suited to the sport’s slower surfaces.
Svitolina, seeded eight, was not about to complain.
“It feels amazing. It is the first semi-final for me, and I actually didn’t expect it to happen here. It is exciting and I am looking forward to it already,” the beaming 24-year-old said after setting up the last-four clash against former world number one Simona Halep.
For long periods during her quarter-final against her unseeded Czech opponent though, it felt that her challenge might again fall flat.
She trailed 1-4 in the first set and was broken when she went to serve for the match at 5-2 up in the second set.
Her heart must have been pounding at the thought of another missed opportunity – considering she had fallen at this stage on four previous occasions at the majors – but somehow she managed to keep the jitters in check to subdue the spirited challenge of her 68th-ranked opponent.
“I had to fight for every point, take my chances, and just try to get the extra ball over the net,” she said.
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Clare Lovell)