Svi­tolina ready for Rogers Cup

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Melissa COUTO

Elina Svi­tolina has a re­newed sense of con­fi­dence head­ing into this year’s Rogers Cup in Toronto.

And for the first time this sea­son, the Ukrainian ten­nis star is feel­ing well rested too.

Svi­tolina, the world No. 7-ranked player on the WTA, took some time away from the court fol­low­ing her first ca­reer Grand Slam semi­fi­nal ap­pear­ance at Wim­ble­don ear­lier this month to go back to her home­town with boyfriend and No. 19 men’s player Gael Mon­fils.

The two spent time with Svi­tolina’s fam­ily, sun­bathed on a yacht on the Black Sea, at­tended the Odesa Film Fes­ti­val, and – most im­por­tantly – re­laxed.

“I don’t (usu­ally) have a lot of time and when I go there it’s al­ways hec­tic. But this time I can­celled al­most all my me­dia so I could en­joy my time with fam­ily,” Svi­tolina said of the wel­come break in her sched­ule.

“I don’t re­ally get much op­por­tu­nity to do that. I go (home) maybe twice a year for five days max­i­mum. But it was my first time bring­ing Gael to Ukraine so we re­ally en­joyed it.”

Svi­tolina is back in ac­tion this week as the top seed at the Sil­i­con Valley Clas­sic in San Jose, Calif., where she’ll face un­seeded Daria Kasatk­ina of Rus­sia in sec­ond-round ac­tion on Wed­nes­day.

Then it’s back to fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory for the 24-year-old, who will com­pete at Aviva Cen­tre in Toronto next week for the first time since win­ning the Rogers Cup women’s ti­tle there in 2017.

Svi­tolina, then just 22, de­feated for­mer world No. 1 Caro­line Woz­ni­acki to cap­ture the Rogers Cup while run­ning on fumes af­ter rain forced her to play three matches in two days.

That vic­tory was her third straight Pre­mier-5 level win of the 2017 sea­son, and the cir­cum­stances be­hind it – the late start times, the weather de­lays, the level of com­pe­ti­tion she had to claw through just to make the fi­nal – gives a lit­tle ex­tra weight to that ti­tle.

“I think it was a very, very tough tour­na­ment for me from the first match,” said Svi­tolina, who also de­feated ninth-ranked Venus Williams, fourth-ranked Gar­bine Mugu­ruza and sec­ond-ranked Si­mona Halep en route to that cham­pi­onship.

“It was a very tough draw for me and in the end I went through.

“I played two matches in one day, fin­ished one re­ally late, all this stuff hap­pened. So to come through with a ti­tle, it’s some­thing I was very proud of and it gave me a boost of con­fi­dence. I’ll def­i­nitely re­mem­ber that ti­tle for a long time.”

Svi­tolina con­tin­ued her suc­cess af­ter the 2017 Rogers Cup, reach­ing a ca­reer-high No. 3 rank­ing a cou­ple weeks later. She won four ti­tles the fol­low­ing year, in­clud­ing the sea­son-end­ing WTA Fi­nals, but has yet to win a tour­na­ment in 2019. A knee in­jury suf­fered at the Pre­mier tour­na­ment in Dubai in Fe­bru­ary hasn’t helped her cause.

While the knee has yet to fully heal, Svi­tolina felt her sea­son start to turn with her Wim­ble­don semi­fi­nal ap­pear­ance on July 11 (she lost to even­tual cham­pion Si­mona Halep).

“I think it was a good boost for my con­fi­dence com­ing from the in­jury, and to have such a good re­sult at Wim­ble­don was some­thing that I worked re­ally hard for,” Svi­tolina said. “It was a good sign for me that I’m mov­ing in the right direc­tion and I’m feel­ing bet­ter and con­fi­dent phys­i­cally as well.”

Svi­tolina said doc­tors had ad­vised her to take some time off to let the knee re­cover, but she brushed the in­jury aside as some­thing she could play through. In her ninth sea­son on the WTA Tour, Svi­tolina said she’s still learn­ing her body’s lim­its.

“It does play into ex­pe­ri­ence,” Svi­tolina said of her de­ci­sion to keep play­ing.

“This is one of my big­gest set­backs that I’ve had and it was re­ally tough to come back and to feel good again.

“It was a tough time men­tally more than phys­i­cally... I prob­a­bly should have taken more time.”

Svi­tolina said the knee is re­cov­er­ing quicker and bet­ter af­ter each tour­na­ment now and she feels good oth­er­wise head­ing into Toronto.

She also doesn’t think there’s any pres­sure on her as the last woman to win the Rogers Cup at Aviva Cen­tre.

“That was two years back,” said Svi­tolina, who lost in the semis of the Rogers Cup in Montreal last Au­gust.

“(Toronto) is a place where I re­ally love to play... and I’m look­ing for­ward to it. It’s more ex­cit­ing than stress­ful.”

AP PHOTO

Elina Svi­tolina cel­e­brates win­ning a point against Karolina Mu­chova dur­ing a women’s quar­ter­fi­nal match dur­ing the Wim­ble­don Ten­nis Cham­pi­onships in London on July 9.

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