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Elina Svitolina: Pain and Pride after Australian Open Exit

Elina Svitolina of Ukraine walks off court after retiring in their round four singles match against Linda Noskova of Czech Republic during the 2024 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Pushing back tears leaking from her eyes, Elina Svitolina trudged off Margaret Court Arena with a wave to fans.

Svitolina’s Australian Open run came to a painful and premature end today.

Back spasms she suffered in a 20-point opening game plagued Svitolina.

The No. 19-seeded Svitolina took treatment for her back issue after the second game, but was clearly compromised.

After 23 minutes of play, Svitolina retired trailing Linda Noskova, 0-3, as the 50th-ranked Czech advanced to her maiden AO quarterfinal.

“I got a spasm, or I don’t know exactly what it is, but like shooting pain in the first game, the last two points,” Svitolina said. “Yeah, couldn’t do anything. Completely locked my back. Just very sad, of course, so yeah.

“My low back completely locked. So, yeah, I’m really in pain even walking, turning. I cannot move side-to-side. Yeah, very strange.”

The 2023 Wimbledon semifinalist departs Melbourne in pain, but takes great pride in her nation’s performance.

Seven Ukrainian women started this Melbourne fortnight, two are still standing and one—qualifier Dayana Yastremska—is already through to her maiden quarterfinal.

World No. 93 Yastremska hit two-time AO champion Victoria Azarenka off the court bursting through six of the final seven games in a 7-6(6), 6-4 triumph on Rod Laver Arena. Azarenka’s defeat means we will see a maiden major finalist from the top half of the draw.

Though Noskova and back spasms denied the prospect of an all-Ukrainian quarterfinal between Svitolina and Yastremska, the Odessa-born Svitolina is gratified Yastremska and Marta Kostyuk, who faces Coco Gauff on Tuesday, are still flying the Ukrainian flag.

“It’s great for Ukrainian tennis. Of course, now I feel very old because of my health, but I’m happy that they are doing great,” Svitolina said. “t’s great for Ukrainian tennis. It’s great for the upcoming generation as well, especially now these days when Ukraine in such a tough time.”

Ukrainian women made history at this Melbourne major: For the first time in history three Ukrainian women reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam. Given the hardship Ukrainian citizens face from Russia’s unprovoked invasion of the country, Svitolina said this collective run shows the strength of characters

“It’s good that we have strong Ukrainian girls. Yeah, hopefully we can continue to build on this,” Svitolina said. “Also, it’s great for Billie Jean King Cup as well.

“I’m looking forward to play in April the tie and hopefully get a chance to play in the main group as well as a team event. It’s good to finally get a chance to play there with such great players, so many good level players. It’s exciting.”