Can Ukrainian star Elina Svitolina save Princess Kate from the awkward ordeal of handing over the Wimbledon trophy to a Belarusian?
The Princess of Wales faces the uncomfortable prospect of handing over the Wimbledon trophy to a Belarusian, but the last Ukrainian still in the tournament could save her.
Athletes from the aggressor nations Russia and its ally Belarus are among the favorites to win as the competition reaches its final stages.
Presenting a trophy to one of them would be a potentially awkward moment for the Palace.
But last night, Ukrainian wildcard Elina Svitolina knocked out world number one Iga Swiatek of Poland to en route to wresting the title from top seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.
Svitolina, who has said goodbye to another Belarusian along the way, said the prospect of facing an athlete from that country in the final is “great motivation.”
Winning form: Svitolina celebrates victory against Iga Swiatek yesterday
Kate Middleton presenting the trophy in last year’s women’s singles final
She said: ‘Every time I play against them, it’s a big motivation, a big responsibility for me too. Another motivation also for my country.’
Svitolina has to win her semifinal against the Czech Marketa Vondrousova, world number 42 to reach the final, after her win over Swiatek last night.
Sabalenka, who has been photographed embracing Vladimir Putin’s closest ally, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, plays American Madison Keys in her own quarterfinal today.
In Paris last month, he said: “I don’t support the war, which means I don’t support Lukashenko right now.” If she beats Keys, she will face the victor of last year’s final, Russian Kazakh Elena Rybakina or Tunisian fan favorite Ons Jabeur.
On the men’s side, world number three Daniil Medvedev of Russia will be just one match away from the final if he beats American outsider Chris Eubanks in the quarterfinals today.
Svitolina, who entered Wimbledon as a wild card after giving birth to her first daughter, Skai, last October, says she sees every match as a fight for her country.
While her immediate family made it out of the Ukraine, her grandmother was too frail to leave and still lives under shelling in her hometown of Odessa.
Speaking about how this has affected her tennis, the former world number three said: “I think having a child and the war made me a different person.” I look at things a little differently.
She added: ‘I think the war made me stronger and it also made me mentally stronger. Mentally I don’t take difficult situations as a disaster, you know, there are worse things in life.
Supporter: Svitolina with Ukrainian President Zelensky
Seeded first: Belarusian champion Aryna Sabalenka
For Ukrainians, the prospect of the Princess of Wales handing over the trophy to a Russian or Belarusian in front of the world’s media would be painful to bear.
Tasya Leskova from Dnipro, whose husband is fighting at the front, said: “They should stay at home and think about what their state is doing.”
The All England Club said the Palace was not involved in the decision to admit Belarusians and Russians this year following their ban in 2022. Chief Executive Sally Bolton said: “We talk to the palace about many different issues all the time, but it was very much our decision.’