Wimbledon: Swiatek, Pegula stunned by unseeded foes

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Day 9 at Wimbledon 2023 had more surprises in store than anyone imagined. Iga Swiatek and Jessica Pegula, the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds at Wimbledon, were both eliminated in the quarterfinals by unseeded opponents.

Elina Svitolina, the Ukrainian who returned to the tour just a few months ago after giving birth to her first child in October, knocked off Swiatek, the No. 1 player in the world, 7-5, 6(5)-7, 6-2 to return to the Wimbledon semifinals for the first time since 2019. Though Svitolina is unseeded and currently ranked No. 76 in the world, she was ranked as high as No. 4 in 2021, with her ranking taking a nosedive due to the time she took off in 2022 while pregnant.

Everything started pretty normally for Swiatek. She was pretty much cruising at 5-3 in the first set when something went sideways. She started making errors and her serve wasn’t nearly as crisp as it usually is. That little crack in the facade let Svitolina back into the match. She kept serving big, winning 16 of the next 18 points and taking the set from Swiatek 7-5.

Ukraine's Elina Svitolina blows a kiss as she celebrates winning against Poland's Iga Swiatek during their women's singles quarter-finals tennis match on the ninth day of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 11, 2023. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina blows a kiss as she celebrates winning against Poland’s Iga Swiatek during their women’s singles quarter-finals tennis match on the ninth day of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 11, 2023. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

Svitolina ran into trouble pretty quickly in the second set. After winning the first game and taking a 40-0 lead in the third game, her serve left her. She missed seven first serves in that game, and had two double faults. Swiatek won to take a 2-1 lead in the second set, then quickly went up 3-1. Svitolina won the next game, but couldn’t get her serve back to where it was in the first set.

Neither could Swiatek, frankly. Svitolina had started reading Swiatek’s serves very well, and Swiatek wasn’t making the adjustments to give her serve more variety. Svitolina was striking first in every game, leaving Swiatek to catch up every time. But instead of buckling down, Swiatek kept looking up at her box for advice or support, clearly feeling uncomfortable with her position — being down a set and battling to stave off elimination.

Swiatek snapped off a dominant game to tie it at 5-5, but things can turn on a dime in tennis. In Svitolina’s next service game, the umpire missed a pretty obvious double fault that denied Swiatek a rightful point and allowed Svitolina to go up 6-5. Now the only way out for Swiatek was to win the next game and survive a tiebreak.

She won the next game, but the tiebreak was misery at the start. Swiatek couldn’t play clean, a problem she’d been having throughout the match, and suddenly found herself in a 4-1 hole. But then something awoke in Swiatek. She slammed four outright winners past Svitolina and evened the match at one set apiece.

But that didn’t fix anything for Swiatek, who continued to have trouble avoiding unforced errors and catching the line with her shots. Svitolina, on the other hand, got a grip on her serve and completely dominated Swiatek in the final set. Though Swiatek will probably be thinking about this match (and all the missed chances) for a long while, it didn’t affect their friendship. When the two opponents met at the net after Svitolina’s win, they shared an embrace and exchanged smiles, supportive of each other until the end.

Jessica Pegula again falls short of Grand Slam semifinal

Wimbledon 2023 is not where No. 3 seed Jessica Pegula will make her first Grand Slam semifinal. She was stopped by Czechia’s Marketa Vondrousova, unseeded at the All England Club and ranked No. 42 in the world, who beat Pegula 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.



Vondrousova had Pegula off balance from the jump. Pegula plays best when she can get into a rhythm, but Vondrousova plays with a lot of creativity. She was able to surprise Pegula with a variety of shots, preventing Pegula from getting comfortable for even a second. Vondrousova was able to ride that all the way to a 6-4 win in the first set.

Pegula answered back in the second set, dominating Vondrousova fairly easily, but the match was far from over. Vondrousova was crafty in the deciding set, launching some clever shots that Pegula couldn’t return. But Pegula had the touch and was able to get an edge by continuing to play the angles at the net. She had just broken Vondrousova to go up 3-1 when play was stopped to close the roof because once again it was threatening to rain.

The management of the roof at Wimbledon has been indecisive and inconsistent, frustrating players to no end. Moments like that, pausing play when Pegula had just started building momentum, could really crush a player’s concentration. And while Pegula won the first game after the break to go up 4-1, she soon found herself tied with Vondrousova at 4-4.

The alarm bells were going off for Pegula at this point, but she couldn’t stop Vondrousova, who kept charging forward with creative shot-making and good defense. After losing a 4-1 lead, Pegula was out of sorts, and she couldn’t find her game again. Vondrousova won five straight games to nail down the win, making her first Wimbledon semifinal and denying Pegula yet another opportunity to make her first Grand Slam semifinal.

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