Wildcard Elina Svitolina stunned top seed Iga Swiatek to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals and will face Marketa Vondrousova, who also caused an upset.
Ukrainian Svitolina, who returned to the tour in April after having her daughter in October, won 7-5 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 as Swiatek’s forehand crumbled.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” former world number three Svitolina, 28, said.
She will now take on unseeded Czech Vondrousova, who beat American fourth seed Jessica Pegula 6-4 2-6 6-4.
Asked how she was going to prepare for Thursday’s semi-final, Svitolina replied with a grin: “Well, first of all I am going to have a beer probably.
“I’m going to enjoy this with my team. At the beginning of the tournament if somebody would tell me that I will be in the semi-final and beating the world number one, I would say they are crazy.”
As well as coming just nine months after becoming a mum, her achievement of matching her best Grand Slam result has come against the backdrop of war in her home country.
Swiatek has been wearing a yellow and blue ribbon in the colours of the Ukrainian flag in support of the country since the invasion and Svitolina voiced her appreciation in her on-court interview.
“Iga is not only a great champion, she is also an unbelievable person. She was one of the first who helped the Ukrainian people and was a huge help for Ukraine,” she said.
“So for sure it’s not easy to play against someone that you share a lot of good moments and I think for her it was not easy but in the end I was really proud with the effort I did today.”
Svitolina’s unexpected – and popular – run continues
Svitolina had not expected to make it this far – she had to sell the Harry Styles tickets she had for a concert in Vienna on Sunday that clashed with her fourth-round match – but on this performance the world number 76 may now want to clear her diary for the rest of the week.
She got off to a bad start, conceding a break in her opening service game with a double fault but then it was Swiatek, whose game unravelled in dramatic fashion while serving for the first set at 5-4.
She sent three successive forehands long and handed over the break with a double fault before another four forehand errors gave Svitolina a straightforward hold. The mistakes continued into the next game and she gifted the Ukrainian the set when she sent a backhand wide.
The Centre Court roof was closed at the end of the set as rain clouds gathered again above the All England Club in the latest weather disruption to hit the championships this week.
That delay could have interrupted Svitolina’s momentum but instead she immediately held to love.
Swiatek briefly stopped the rot, breaking and then going 3-1 up but the tenacious Svitolina again dictated from the baseline to get the break back as she once again demonstrated she has returned to the tour playing some of her best tennis.
But Swiatek, who had been appearing in her first Wimbledon quarter-final, started to find the right side of the lines with her forehand again and when a casual Svitolina missed an easy shot at the net when leading 40-0, it was the start of a drop in her level that let the Pole back into the match.
Swiatek went on to break in that game and eventually went on to force a tie-break, where she fell behind in the breaker but clawed her way back and took the match to a deciding set when Svitolina overcooked a forehand.
But her errors returned in the third as she went a double break behind, with Svitolina holding her nerve to serve out the victory, which she claimed on her second match point when Swiatek sent – as was the story of her afternoon – a forehand into the net.
The Ukrainian dropped to her haunches, looked in shock and then blew kisses to an adoring Centre Court crowd who had been willing her stunning run to continue as she seeks to become only the woman – after Kim Clijsters at the 2009 US Open- to win a Grand Slam title as a wildcard.
Since returning from maternity leave, Svitolina has reached the French Open quarter-finals, won the title in Strasbourg and is now into a second Wimbledon semi-final following her 2019 appearance.
Vondrousova helped by interruption to close roof
This was the first year since the 2013 French Open that all four of the top women’s seeds had reached the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam, and the first time since 2009 that had been the case at Wimbledon.
But the other players lurking in the draw have Grand Slam pedigree and while Svitolina and Vondrousova did, on paper, cause upsets, they are no strangers to deep runs at the majors.
Vondrousova, who is on the comeback after missing six months last year following wrist surgery, was runner-up at the 2019 French Open, although she had never made it past the second round at Wimbledon.
American Pegula was also appearing in her first quarter-final at the All England Club and she had led 3-1 in the final set when the contest was halted to allow the roof on Court One to be closed.
When play resumed world number 42 Vondrousova fought back from 4-1 down by winning five games in a row to claim an emotional victory.
When asked how much closing the roof helped her, the 24-year-old replied: “A lot actually.
“I don’t know what happened. It’s amazing. My best result here was the second round. I just got better. I’m just loving grass now.”
Vondrousova enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks as a teenager when she reached the Roland Garros final four years ago but this was her first quarter-final since that run.
But for Pegula, this was a sixth Grand Slam quarter-final defeat in the past two years.