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Svitolina sets sights on Dubai crown

Promising talent hoping to go at least one better at this week’s event

Gulf News

Dubai: Elina Svitolina is thrilled to be back at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and will go into her matches full of confidence after a spectacular year that sees her knocking on the top-10 door.

In a year in which she claimed victories over world number ones Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber, one of Svitolina’s major wins came in Dubai a year ago when she set Garbine Muguruza packing in the second round on her way to the semi-finals.

Things got even better as the season progressed, with a title in Kuala Lumpur, wins over former world number ones Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic, and then a stunning upset of world number one Williams at the Rio Olympics.

She followed that up by reaching the New Haven final before losing to fourth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska, and then by beating Muguruza again on her way to the Tokyo semi-finals.

Next, she claimed her second victory over a world number one in three months when she overcame Kerber on her way to the semi-finals in Beijing. Her fantastic run continued as she went on to reach the Moscow semi-finals before losing to eventual champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, and she ended her season by reaching the final in Zhuhai, where she fell to Petra Kvitova.

Overall it was a great season and edged her closer to the top 10, and she is determined to build on that success in the months ahead.

“Well, of course, there have been some bad matches in 2016, but also there have been amazing wins,” she reflected.

“So for sure confidence is the first thing that comes to my mind, because the end of season was very strong. The year was up and down, but end of season showed that I have the chances to play good tennis for a couple of tournaments in-a-row.

“So, yeah, it was a good thing that I did it in the end of the season when I was actually pretty tired, and mentally too because I didn’t reach my goals [reaching the top 10 and qualifying for the WTA Finals in Singapore]. I did this last push. It was a good sign.”

This season has been as successful as last, after she beat Kerber again to reach the Brisbane semi-finals before losing to eventual champion Karolina Pliskova. She followed that up by winning the fifth title of her career in Taipei.

Then just a few days ago she won both of her singles matches as Ukraine defeated Australia in the Fed Cup, earning her country the right to compete in the play-offs for a place in the top-tier World Group.

While many players will tell you that they find it invaluable to look back of videos of their losses to see what they did wrong, Svitolina also takes a keen interest in watching her victories to see what she did right.

“It’s very important to go back and to think what I did good in those moments,” she said.

“It’s very important to go back and to look at the video, what I did good, what I did wrong as well, just to be focused on little things. Because even sometimes losing a match, it can be very helpful to see what it is you’re not doing good and what you need to improve,” she added.

“Elina Svitolina has already beaten several of the best players in the world and is clearly destined for even greater success in the future,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice-chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free.

“We all enjoyed watching her reach the semi-finals here last year and look forward to seeing if she can do even better in 2017. We wish her well,” he added.