Perseverance the key for Svitolina

Kumaran Sesshe, head keeper of great apes, introducing the orangutans to Elina Svitolina during the tennis player's visit to the Singapore Zoo yesterday. She is in Singapore to play in the WTA Finals, which starts on Sunday.
Kumaran Sesshe, head keeper of great apes, introducing the orangutans to Elina Svitolina during the tennis player's visit to the Singapore Zoo yesterday. She is in Singapore to play in the WTA Finals, which starts on Sunday.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Hard work puts Ukrainian in her first WTA Finals, where she hopes to win sixth title of the year

By her own admission, 2017 has been an "amazing" year for tennis player Elina Svitolina.

This is the year she won her first Premier 5 title - the WTA Tour's third tier after Grand Slams and Premier Mandatory events - and she would became the first woman to win three of them in a season.

This is the year she first entered the world's top 10, reached a high of No. 3 and is now No. 4.

There was no secret, magic recipe she said with a smile when asked by The Straits Times.

She says her 2017 story is one of persistence and perseverance.

And as Svitolina, who with five titles is the player with the most trophies this season, explained: "I've been asked this question many times and it's very tough to say because I've been working really hard.

"I've changed lots of coaches. I took something from each partnership and everything just came together. I'm more mature and working hard during the off-season really paid off for me."

After working with the Briton Iain Hughes and former world No. 1 Justine Henin last year, she started this term with former Spanish professional Gabriel Urpi as full-time coach. The Frenchman Thierry Ascione served as a consultant.

She has stopped working with Urpi, but continues to work with Ascione and hitting partner Andrew Bettles, both former professional players.

DETAILS MATTER

To be the best player you need to do everything, so it's important to improve just the little things, which would make the difference.

ELINA SVITOLINA , world No. 4, on what she is doing to try to reach the next level. 

Svitolina, who was speaking at the Singapore Zoo after interacting with orangutans there yesterday, added that there was no specific turning point in her career, just "lots of matches" - including wins over Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber when both women held the top ranking.

She said: "Last year I played lots of good matches. I lost some, I won some. I was always trying to learn something new from each match."

She considers her upset of then-world No. 1 Williams in the fourth round of last year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro "one of the best matches that season", saying: "It was something good, showing that I'm moving in the right direction but I need more consistency to play at that kind of level all the time.

"I've been working on it and this year it was much better for sure."

This consistency has earned her a place at the US$7 million (S$9.5 million) BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global for the first time. The tournament begins on Sunday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Svitolina, who leads the tour in wins over players in the top five (7-1) and top 10 (10-3), added that improving "a little bit of everything", including her serve and mental strength, contributed to her fine results this season.

And she wants more.

"I'm looking forward to this part of the season, to improve more and be consistent... there's still lots of room for improvement," she said.

"To be the best player you need to do everything, so it's important to improve just the little things, which would make the difference."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2017, with the headline ' Perseverance the key for Svitolina'. Print Edition | Subscribe