Exclusive interview: How the Australian Open favourite was bowled over by an English cricketer

Elina Svitolina with boyfriend Reece Topley Credit: REX FEATURES

Last weekend, Australian Open favourite Elina Svitolina won her lead-up tournament in Brisbane. The entourage in her player’s box included a new face: a burly 6ft 3in chap with a bushy moustache.

Tennis is a tight-knit community, so everybody in the locker-room was trying to work out who this Obelix-like character was. When asked, he just smiled wryly and said “security”. Today The Sunday Telegraph can identify the mystery figure as former Essex fast bowler Don Topley, 53, who had taken the day off from leading an Ashes tour group around Australia.

It was an unexpected combination, admittedly. As rival summer sports, tennis and cricket rarely mix. And neither do Odessa and Ipswich. But Svitolina – who comes from Ukraine’s second city – is breaking new ground. In 2018, she is on track to celebrate the two-year anniversary of her romance with Reece Topley, Don’s son and another professional...

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