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Svitolina braced for the challenges ahead

Defending champion from Ukraine has Grand Slams in her sights now

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News
Elina Svitolina, Ukrainian tennis player, during the roundtable and ~Jumeirah Creek Hotel, Dubai.
Gulf News

Dubai: Reigning Dubai champion Elina Svitolina is confident of living up to the challenge and rigours of the tour going into the defence of her title at this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships that get under way at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium from Monday.

Svitolina, who defeated current world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets last year to capture her first title at Premier 5 level, comes to Dubai wearing two hats — as the top seed and defending champion.

“This year, there’s going to be a couple times for me when I come to big tournaments as defending champion. I’m going to have to get used to it even though it is a different feeling for me,” Svitolina told the media on Sunday.

“But for me it’s also very interesting to see how I’m going to handle it. I’m ready for this challenge definitely,” she vouched.

Her triumph in Dubai was the spark Svitolina needed to break into the big league as she became the first Ukrainian woman to ease into the top-10. Since then, the youngster has gone on to assert her place as one of the best following another two crowns at the Italian Open and the Canadian Open to sign off a successful 2017.

“Well, I don’t look at it as a pressure because I have played well. I know what I have to do to be ready to play well here. I just have to go on court and be 100 per cent be physically ready for everything really,” she added.

Svitolina has already had a sound start to the season, having already won the Brisbane International and going down in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open to Belgian Elise Mertens in straight sets. Last week, she stumbled to Petra Kvitova in the Round of 16 of the Qatar Open.

“I think I’ve been good this year. I’ve been more positive especially after winning the first tournament of the year [Brisbane] playing well,” Svitolina observed.

“I think I am playing at a good level and it is very important for me to see that I am improving each week and moving on in the right direction,” she added.

Grand Slams are something that are within her immediate attention. “To win a Grand Slam has always been my goal. And this is going to be the goal for the rest of my career. I have no choice which one it can be. Maybe all of them,” Svitolina smiled.

She actually fancies her chances in all of them. “I don’t put any pressure on myself. I am an all-round player. I won Rome on clay. I won Toronto and here on hardcourts. I also played well Wimbledon last year. I’m getting better on grass,” she said.

“We’re trying to approach Grand Slams a little bit differently. So this year was the quarter-final [Australian Open], and of course, I wanted more. I wanted to go further. But it’s like that. We do everything that’s in our power to be ready,” she added.


Svitolina predicts strong Serena comeback

Svitolina has predicted that the legendary Serena Williams will be back as a force in women’s tennis in the near future.

Trying to be the only multiple champion after Venus Williams and her coach Justine Henin, Svitolina admitted that Williams is good enough despite a lengthy maternity break to be at the top of the women’s game.

“Maybe she will not be as strong as she was before, but she will be definitely strong and back at a good level,” Svitolina told media at the media round table session on Sunday.

“She’s a great champion. She has unbelievable experience, unbelievable game for tennis that is very unique and it’s going to be very interesting to see her coming back,” Svitolina added.

Williams’s legend as one of the all-time greats continues despite her break from tennis since April 2017 to deliver her first baby with husband Alexis Ohanian. The younger of the Williams sisters, the 36-year-old has the distinction of being ranked world No. 1 on eight separate occasions over the past decade and a half starting from 2002.

“Hopefully, I can play against her,” Svitolina added.

- A.G.