Elina Svitolina's Wimbledon black ribbon tribute after missile strike in Ukraine

Elina Svitolina wore a black ribbon during her Wimbledon last-16 match against Wang Xiyu, after Russian missile strikes killed and injured more than 100 Ukrainians across the country this morning.

Svitolina, who won 6-2, 6-1 to reach her second consecutive Wimbledon quarterfinal, broke down in tears during the customary on-court interview after victory.

“It’s a very difficult day today for Ukrainian people,” she said, before beginning to cry. The crowd applauded for over 45 seconds as she composed herself.

“It was more difficult today to focus on the match. Since the morning it’s very difficult to read the news, and to go on the court… It’s extremely tough.

“I’m happy that I could play today, and get the win.”

At least 36 people were killed and over 100 were injured in cities across Ukraine on Monday, according to Reuters, following a large-scale Russian missile strike. Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital in Kyiv, the country’s largest children’s hospital, was also hit during the strike. Officials cautioned that the toll was likely to rise.

Svitolina is an ambassador for the United24 program, launched by Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

She became one of the biggest stories at Wimbledon in 2023, for both her run to semifinals — defeating world No 1 Iga Swiatek en route — and her work in support of Ukraine. Her foundation, established in 2019, has brought over 1000 young Ukrainian players into tennis coaching..

Geopolitical tensions were at the heart of last year’s tournament, after the All England Club reversed its 2022 ban on Russian and Belarusian tennis players. They remain required to compete as neutral athletes, and the reversal restored ranking points to the tournament after the ATP and WTA tours stripped them in 2022 in response to the ban.

This has largely been absent from this year’s tournament, until today. Earlier in the draw, at the end of a second-round match between Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska and Varvara Gracheva, who is Russian-born but lives in and competes for France, Yastremska appeared to forget her opponent’s background when going in for a handshake. This resulted in a mutually awkward — but not tense — snub at the net.

In 2023, non-handshakes between Ukrainian and Russian and Belarusian players were the accepted norm between them, but crowds were sometimes unaware and would boo players come the end of matches.

Svitolina now faces Elena Rybakina, 23, in the quarter-finals. She has become one of the title favourites, as the only player left in the draw to have won Wimbledon before, in 2022.

Rybakina was born and raised in Moscow, where her family still lives, but accepted Kazakhstan citizenship in 2017  in exchange for financial backing from the Kazakhstan tennis association, at the time bolstered by the patronage of billionaire tennis superfan Bulat Utemuratov.

(Andrej Isakovic/AFP via Getty Images)

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