Ukraine's Elina Svitolina makes a forehand return to United States' Madison Keys during their fourth round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, on Monday, January 21, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Elina Svitolina, a two-time winner of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, will bid for an unprecedented third straight title when the action gets under way on February 17.

No woman player at the tournament has ever claimed three consecutive crowns. Justine Henin, who at one time coached Svitolina, won it four times in five years between 2003 and 2007, with Lindsay Davenport taking the title in 2005. Venus Williams won the title in 2009 and 2010 and now Svitolina will bid to seal her place in the elite club.

After beating world No. 2 Angelique Kerber in the semi-finals and then former champion Caroline Wozniacki to win the title in 2017, Svitolina was under added pressure as she sought to defend her title in 2018. She beat Kerber again in the semi-finals to set herself up for a clash with Daria Kasatkina, who had performed heroically by defeating not only former winner Agnieszka Radwanska and two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Johanna Konta but also world No. 3 Garbine Muguruza.

“I was under pressure in the final because I was reaching the top 10 for the first time,” said Svitolina. “It was a massive deal for me winning here, it gave me lots of confidence to push for the rest of the season. I always like to come back to play in Dubai, the shopping is amazing, the weather is nice, the Centre Court atmosphere is great, the conditions are perfect. It’s nice to be defending champion because it brings you confidence, I just try to stay focused on what I have to do when I go on court.”

A few weeks after her second Dubai triumph, she added the Rome trophy to her shelf, not only beating Kasatkina and Kerber again but world No. 1 Simona Halep in the final. In addition to that success, she reached a semi-final in Montreal and four quarter-finals before ending her season on the highest possible note by lifting the trophy at the WTA Finals in Singapore.

“It takes a very special talent to defend a title, and it was wonderful to see how Elina Svitolina dealt with the expectations and pressure last year,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Now she faces another challenge, to become the first player in the 19-year history of the women’s event to win the title for a third straight time. We eagerly look forward to seeing how she fares.”

It is easy, despite the seemingly glamorous and luxurious lifestyle, to suffer mental as well as physical fatigue during the long season, but Svitolina has found a way to combat that.

“I try always to have small breaks, even for a weekend,” she revealed. “I try to go somewhere I don’t see tennis courts. For me, it’s very important. Sometimes if I have two days I go to Spain or France just to reset my mind and it really helps me.”

“Her victory last year proved to be a springboard for a great season and to end such a busy year by claiming one of the biggest titles the sport has to offer was a magnificent achievement,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak.

Tickets are available online at www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com. For further information about the tournament, please visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com