Tennis player Elina Svitolina has made a stunning comeback to the sport since becoming a mother.
The former world number three beat Russian ninth seed Daria Kasatkina 6-4 7-6 (7-5) to reach the last eight. She is now set to play second-seed Aryna Sabalenka, who defeated American Sloane Stephens in the previous round.
Svitolina had daughter Skai with French tennis player Gael Monfils in October and is playing only her sixth tour-level tournament since returning to tennis in April.
“I feel almost like I’m 17 again coming on the tour fresh”
In an interview after her victory over Kasatkina, Svitolina revealed that she feels reinvigorated and without pressure ever since giving birth. I don’t have the pressure I used to have,” said Svitolina, who was a Wimbledon and US Open semi-finalist in 2019.
Svitolia’s remarkable return comes as she seeks to win her first Grand Slam title following several years of strong performances but no major trophy wins. The Ukrainian admitted that she puts pressure on herself as she aims for this ultimate goal, but not from outside sources: “But definitely not the pressure from outside…I’m not defending any [ranking] points.”
Sabalenka defeats Stephens; sets up clash with revitalized Svitolia
Australian Open champion Sabalenka beat Stephens in the previous round, although she opted out of an open news conference after her win. She defeated Stephens 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 to secure a spot in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for the first time.
Despite losing five games early on and being down 5-0 within just over fifteen minutes, Stephens fought back from behind against Sabalenka and almost forced a decider before ultimately succumbing.
This sets up an intriguing clash between Svitolina and Sabalenka as both players seek to advance further in this year’s French Open tournament. Svitolina is currently on an eight-match winning streak having claimed the title in Strasbourg ahead of this competition.
Svitolia acknowledges Kasatkina’s bravery; will treat Sabalenka like any other opponent
Svitolina did not shake hands with Kasatkina after their match but acknowledged Kasatkina’s bravery for speaking out publicly against Russia’s actions towards Ukraine: “I’m really thankful for her position that she took. She’s really brave person to say it publicly, not so many players did.”
Having played four Russian opponents since her comeback without shaking hands with any of them, Svitolia says that “everything will be the same” when she plays Sabalenka next.