Russian Rublev grateful for Wimbledon support, wants end to ‘terrible’ Ukraine situation
The ongoing war in Ukraine was the focus of attention at Wimbledon this week.
Russian Andrey Rublev thanked the Centre Court crowd for their noisy support during his failed bid to knock defending champion Novak Djokovic out of Wimbledon on Tuesday.
Seventh seed Rublev, like the other Russian and Belarusian players in the draw, was banned last year by Wimbledon in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Rublev, who expressed his dismay about his country’s action shortly after the invasion when he wrote “No War Please” on a camera lens at the Dubai Open, said he was taken aback by the support from the Wimbledon fans.
“Last year I was set not to play one of the best tournaments in our sport,” the 25-year-old, whose inspired performance had fans on their feet during his 4-6 6-1 6-4 6-3 loss in a high-quality quarterfinal, told reporters.
“But being here this year, I felt grateful. I felt really great support during these two weeks. Today, as well. Is like I was saying, to be from the country where I am, to have this support, it’s special.
“I don’t know, I feel sometimes I don’t deserve it or something like that. I don’t know what you need to do to have this support. I’m really grateful for this.”
Asked whether Russian players felt a sense of guilt over President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, Rublev said: “It’s not guilty. It’s more just the situation is terrible.
“Of course, you don’t wish this on anyone. You want these terrible things to be able to finish as fast as possible for all the people in the world to have a chance to have a good life.”
Players from Russia and Belarus, which was used as a staging post for Moscow’s invasion, were allowed back at Wimbledon this year after the WTA and ATP fined the Lawn Tennis Association for its stance and took away ranking points.
One of the conditions for their return was for players to sign a personal declaration that they do not support the war.
Ukraine’s Svitolina has no time to lose
There is a reason Elina Svitolina has been an unstoppable force at Wimbledon this year.
“I don’t have time to lose anymore,” the Ukrainian wildcard said on Tuesday after toppling world No 1 Iga Świątek to reach the Wimbledon semifinals for a second time in four years.
Now 28 and trying to work her way back to the top after giving birth to daughter Skai last October, the former world No 3 has been playing a fearless brand of tennis that has taken all of her Wimbledon opponents by surprise.
I think war made me stronger and also made me mentally stronger.
So much so that she has taken down four Grand Slam champions in the shape of Venus Williams (first round), Sofia Kenin (third round), Victoria Azarenka (fourth round) and now top seed Świątek at this year’s grass-court major.
What exactly has changed for Svitolina, whose best showing had been two semifinals in 36 Grand Slam appearances before she went off on maternity break last year?
“I think war made me stronger and also made me mentally stronger,” she said, referring to her homeland being invaded by Russia.
“Mentally I don’t count difficult situations (on court) as a disaster. There are worse things in life. I’m just more calm.
“Because I just started to play again… I have this huge motivation to come back to the top. I think having a child, and the war, made me a different person. I look at things a bit differently.”
That approach has paid dividends since she returned to the tour in April.
She won her first title in almost two years in Strasbourg, donating her prize money to the humanitarian aid for Ukrainian children, then made it through to the last eight at Roland Garros and has now gone one better at Wimbledon.
Svitolina credits her rich run of form to the fact that she realises that time is her worst enemy.
“Right now I just say to myself I think it’s less years that I have in front than behind me. I have to go for it. I don’t know how many years I will be playing more,” said Svitolina, who must beat Czech Marketa Vondrousova to reach a first slam final.
“You practise for these moments, for these big moments. Like today I was walking through the path where you go to the Centre Court, you see so much history. I told myself, ‘Go out there, give your best, go for it’.” Reuters/DM