SINGAPORE - By her own admission, this year has been an "amazing" one for tennis player Elina Svitolina.
This was the year the world No. 4 won her first Premier 5 (the third-highest tier of tournaments on the WTA tour, after the Grand Slams and Premier Mandatory events) title, entered the top-10 rankings for the first time and became the first woman to win three Premier 5 titles in a single season.
This was the year that led many to ask the 23-year-old Ukrainian how she achieved her breakthrough, and when asked by The Straits Times on Thursday (Oct 19), Svitolina smiled before revealing her formula for success: that there is no secret, magic recipe.
Her 2017 story is one of persistence and perseverance, as Svitolina, who with five titles is the player with the most number of trophies this season, said: "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 and for me, I took something from each partnership and everything just came together. I'm more mature and I think working hard during the off-season really paid off for me."
After working with Briton Iain Hughes and former world No. 1 Justine Henin last year, Svitolina started this season with former Spanish professional Gabriel Urpi as her full-time coach. Frenchman Thierry Ascione, also a former pro, served as a consultant.
Svitolina has since stopped working with Urpi, but continues to work with Ascione and hitting partner Andrew Bettles, a former pro.
Speaking at the Singapore Zoo after interacting with orangutans there on Thursday (Oct 19), Svitolina added that there was no specific turning point in her career either, just "lots of matches" - including wins over Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber when both women held the top ranking.
"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 said.
Svitolina considers her defeat of then-world No. 1 Williams in the fourth round of last year's Olympics in Rio "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.
"So I've been working on it and this year, it was much better for sure."
This consistency has earned her a place at the Oct 22-29 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global for the first time, where she will chase her sixth title of the year.
Svitolina, who leads the Tour in wins over players ranked 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."
On Wednesday (Oct 18), doubles pair Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson were the final team to seal their berth at the US$7 million (S$9.4 million) season finale.