Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina stands just two victories away from the biggest victory of her impressive tennis career.
The world No.6defeated Camila Giorgi in straight sets on Wednesday to reach the semifinals, where Marketa Vondrousova stands between her and a play-off for the women’s singles gold medal.
Svitolina is seeking to win her nation’s first tennis medal at an Olympic Games – and she is conscious of the significance of such an achievement.
"I know that for Ukraine, (the Olympics) is a really big thing," Svitolina said after beating Giorgi 6-4 6-4. “Here I am in the semifinal, and I can get a chance to get a medal. It's very special for me, but I try to take one match at a time."
Svitolina has an accomplished history of representing her nation.
She is 14-8 in Billie Jean King Cup singles play – the competition formerly known as the Fed Cup – and at the Rio 2016 Olympics she advanced to the singles quarterfinals, beating Serena Williams along the way.
Having been ranked as high as No.3, Svitolina owns an astonishing 15-3 record in WTA finals, with exactly a third of those 15 career titles coming at WTA 1000 level, or higher (as was the case when she triumphed at the WTA Finals in 2018).
She has also been ranked inside the top 10, every single week, for more than four years.
Yet the one box left unticked on her tennis achievement list is a Grand Slam title.
Svitolina has advanced to at least the quarterfinal stage seven times at major tournaments, and twice in 2019 she took a step further, thanks to her Wimbledon and US Open semifinal finishes.
But she is one of only three players currently ranked in the WTA top 16 never to have appeared in a major final.
Up until now, her level of play at Grand Slam tournaments has not kept pace with what she regularly produces at tour level. An example? She owns 35 career victories over top-10 opponents, but only one of those has come at a major.
A gold medal in Olympic singles play would help Svitolina to tick that metaphoric box, given the esteem in which she holds the event.
"I value the Olympics as a Grand Slam, and I tried to prepare to bring my best tennis,” she revealed.
Svitolina now turns her attention to Vondrousova, a player against whom she has won three of four career meetings.
"It was a really good match today (against Giorgi), I think one of the better ones I've played here," she said.
“Definitely helps me for my next match."