Can Ukraine star Elina Svitolina save Princess Kate from the awkward ordeal of handing the Wimbledon trophy to a Belarusian?
The Princess of Wales faces the awkward prospect of handing the Wimbledon trophy to a Belarusian – but she could be saved by the last Ukrainian still in the tournament.
Athletes from aggressor nations Russia and its ally Belarus are among the favourites to win as the competition reaches its final stages.
Presenting a trophy to one of them would prove a potentially uncomfortable moment for the Palace.
But last night Ukrainian wildcard Elina Svitolina knocked out the world number one Pole Iga Swiatek to set herself on course to wrestle the title off the Belarusian top seed Aryna Sabalenka.
Svitolina, who has seen off another Belarusian en route, said the prospect of facing an athlete from that country in the final is a ‘big motivation’.
Winning form: Svitolina celebrates victory against Iga Swiatek yesterday
Kate Middleton handing out the trophy on the Ladies Singles Final last year
She said: ‘Each time I play against them, it’s big motivation, big responsibility as well for me. Different motivation as well for my country.’
Svitolina has to win her semi-final against Czech Marketa Vondrousova, ranked 42 in the world to get to the final, after her victory over Swiatek last night.
Sabalenka, who has been photographed hugging Vladimir Putin’s closest ally, Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko, plays American Madison Keys today in her own quarter final.
In Paris last month, she said: ‘I don’t support war, which means I don’t support Lukashenko right now.’ If she beats Keys, she faces the victor of last year’s final, Russian-born Kazak Elena Rybakina or Tunisian fan favourite Ons Jabeur.
On the men’s side, world number three the Russian Daniil Medvedev will be just one match from the final if he defeats American outsider Chris Eubanks in the quarter finals today.
Svitolina, who entered Wimbledon as a wildcard having only given birth to her first daughter, Skai, last October, says she sees each match as a fight for her country.
While her immediate family made it out of Ukraine, her grandmother was too frail to leave and still lives under bombardment of her hometown in Odessa.
Speaking about how this has affected her tennis, the former world number three said: ‘I think having a child, and war, made me a different person. I look at the things a bit differently.’
She added: ‘I think war made me stronger and also made me mentally stronger. Mentally I don’t take difficult situations as like a disaster, you know, there are worse things in life.’
Supporter: Svitolina with Ukraine’s president Zelensky
Top seed: Belarusian champion Aryna Sabalenka
For fellow Ukrainians the prospect of the Princess of Wales giving the trophy to a Russian or Belarusian in front of the world’s media would be a painful one to bear.
Tasya Leskova, from Dnipro, whose husband is fighting on the front line, said: ‘They should sit at home and think about what their state is doing.’
The All England Club said that the Palace was not involved in the decision to admit Belarusians and Russians this year following their ban in 2022. CEO Sally Bolton said: ‘We talk to the palace about lots of different issues all the time, but it was very much our decision.’