Elina Svitolina credits a “mysterious man” for her shift in mentality that helped her enjoy success this week in Singapore, where she has won all three of her round robin matches to qualify for the semi-finals top of her group.
The Ukrainian No. 6 seed came back from a set and a break down to defeat Caroline Wozniacki on Thursday and secure her spot in the final four of the season-ending championships.
Her run at these WTA Finals comes on the heels of a difficult six months for Svitolina, who admits it was a struggle dealing with her sub-par results from the French Open onwards, as well as the constant scrutiny regarding her dramatic weight loss during the spring.
She parted ways with her French coach Thierry Ascione after the US Open and had a very brief trial with Nick Saviano.
“For me, going into this tournament was very important mentally to bounce back, and, you know, I had really, really tough second part of the season. I was actually — I was actually surprised, because I was very positive and I just keep fighting,” said the 24-year-old.
“I stopped with my coach, with Thierry, and it was not easy. With all the things going on social media, with the opinions about my physique, it wasn’t easy.
“So this really shows, and I think I’m getting mentally tough. That’s what I have been working on really hard. Yeah, definitely Andy [Bettles, my traveling coach] helps me a lot, and it’s something that really I appreciate it.”
Svitolina, who is the first Ukrainian to qualify for the WTA Finals in singles, won three titles in the first five months of the season, in Brisbane, Dubai and Rome, but things changed for her after she made a surprise third round exit to Mihaela Buzarnescu at the French Open.
“The period of six months I think after my bad performance at Roland Garros and then continued few tournaments that I didn’t play my best tennis I think made me stronger. I just decided what I have to do on court, off court, and that’s more clear now,” she says.
“It’s tough to spot few things, but I have been working with Andy, and it’s like one more person that helps me, I had a conversation with. So I’m not going to say who’s that. Keep it to a mysterious man who made it clear what I have to do, and it a little bit opened my mind. So I’m really thankful for that man,” she added with a smile.
Svitolina needed to win just one set from her match with Wozniacki on Thursday to reach the semis but things weren’t looking up for her when she trailed the Dane by a set and a break. Svitolina somehow turned things around and secured the second set on her fifth opportunity in a tense final game.
Asked what lessons she feels she learned from the last six months, Svitolina said: “By knowing that I have to look only on my path and to don’t — you know, there is a thousand opinions, million opinions. I just have to do my job and go on court. I’m trying to win every point. I’m not giving any free points. Just want to continue that way.
“It definitely made me stronger in, you know, those tough moments. And now I’m just enjoying this success. The job is not done yet, but, you know, these three matches that I had, they have been really tough. Today I saw, you know, this challenge. I’m really, really happy the way I could handle it.”
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