Tuesday's Wimbledon quarterfinal between Elina Svitolina and Karolina Muchova was close in moments, but Svitolina surged past Muchova, 7-5, 6-4, to become the first Ukrainian woman to reach the semifinals of a singles major.
"Yeah, well, it feels amazing. But I try to not think so much about it anymore," said Svitolina following her victory.
Svitolina will look to continue her best major run when she faces Simona Halep for a spot in the championship on Thursday. Svitolina leads their head-to-head series at 4-3, with Halep winning their latest encounter in a tight three-setter earlier this year in the Doha semifinals. The two have never met on grass before.
Muchova began the match anxiously, spraying loose errors and hitting a double fault in the opening game. The nerves didn't last long, as the Czech quickly captured the next four games, preventing Svitolina from playing her free flowing game by taking shots early, coming into the court, and serve and volleying with success.
However, after leading 5-2, unforced errors started to creep in, allowing Svitolina to even draw even. In a critical game at 5-5, Svitolina battled through five missed break-points before converting to go up 6-5 in the set. With her confidence raised, she then held comfortably to serve out the first set.
"I think in the end, this fighting spirit really helped me to find my game and to get back in the match. First set for sure was the key."
With boyfriend Gael Monfils cheering on from her box, Svitolina put a lot of balls in play, forcing Muchova to play longer rallies.
“It's someone who understands what I'm going through," Svitolina said. "It's very helpful for me. [Gael] been very understand[ing]. Haven't been easy for me. For the past months it was not easy because I was traveling with my injury. The first time when I really had to stop, didn't practice properly. Normally I'm practicing like five hours a day. I'm always doing something. I had to stop, almost do nothing.
"He was very helpful. We were talking a lot. I'm very close person. It really opened me as a person that I really start to understand what's important for me, some parts that I didn't really thought about before. So this was very helpful. In the end it's always me who decides my own decisions. But it's good that he helps me.”
The patient game plan worked against a fatigued Muchova, who played a marathon round of 16 match on Monday against former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova, where she prevailed 13-11 in the decisive set. With the benefit of a double break, Svitolina, who was unable to serve out the match at 5-2, finished the job with unreachable serve down the tee on her next opportunity to claim the victory in one hour and 32 minutes.
“I think I learned to be patient because I had lots of tough matches in quarterfinal. Few of them was very unlucky. I was not fit 100%,” Svitolina said. “This is also experience, I would say, because you have to save some energy, you have to work smart, you have to schedule your practices, you have to do the right recovery, what works for you. This is just the way. I think it's just experience.”
Svitolina came into the clash with a 0-4 record in major quarterfinals. It's worth noting she was two points away from going out in the second round to Margarita Gasparyan until the Russian suffered from a leg issue that forced her to retire towards the end of the second set.