Venus Williams falls to Wimbledon defeat with Svitolina on comeback trail | Wimbledon 2023 [wafact]

For a brief moment on Centre Court, the stadium that has witnessed five of her grand slam titles caught a glimpse of Venus Williams at full flight. In the early stages of her much anticipated encounter with Elina Svitolina, the ball was flying off the 43-year-old’s racket cleanly and with ease as she immediately broke serve.

But just as quickly as she had found her footing, she lost it. At 2-0, Williams slipped on the grass while defending the net, screaming as she clasped at her left knee. Williams eventually stood up and resumed while moving tentatively, but Svitolina showed her experience by taking control during the uncertainty and never looking back.

With an extremely clean, assertive performance, Svitolina returned to Wimbledon for the first time since 2021 with a win, defeating Williams 6-4, 6-3 in a battle between two players embarking on inspirational comebacks to reach the second round.

“It’s always a pleasure to play against Venus. Played against her so many times in almost every slam, It was a really special moment on a special court against a big legend, a really good feeling,” said Svitolina.

Svitolina stepped onto the court looking to continue her spectacular comeback. After giving birth in October to her daughter, Skaï, and returning to practice in January, she made her comeback in April. A month later, she won a WTA title in Strasbourg and reached the quarter-final of Roland Garros. After being unranked in April, she is already back inside the top 100.

“Me and Gaël [Monfils] had a special moment in October welcoming our beautiful daughter,” said Svitolina. “They are cheering from home and it’s really special for us and I’m really happy I could come back to tennis really quick. Playing here, playing in a grand slam, it’s an unbelievable feeling.”

Still, there had been question marks surrounding Svitolina’s grass-court form after a curious 6-2, 6-0 loss to Linda Fruhvirtova in Birmingham and the 28-year-old seemed uncertain in the early stages.

After Williams’ slip, though, as she struggled to recalibrate her range, Svitolina soared. She used Williams’ pace brilliantly, constantly crouching down and using her legs to counterpunch and redirect the ball. As the match endured, the quality was high and Williams found a better ballstriking rhythm. Still, Svitolina constantly found a way to flip rallies from defence to attack.

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The encounter ended with some controversy as Svitolina’s backhand return was initially called out. Williams, who also thought the ball out, had swatted the ball away around the same time as the call was made. Svitolina’s backhand was ruled in by the umpire, prompting the umpire to rule that Williams had not been distracted by the call and awarding the point to Svitolina.

Clearly unhappy with the call, Williams opted not to shake the umpire’s hand before departing Centre Court to a standing ovation and loud applause. At 43, it is possible that this is Williams’ last Wimbledon, but considering the amount of commitment and passion she still has after nearly three decades in the game, it seems clear that her comeback has only just begun.

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