An abridged version of this interview appears on Elina's official website
. This is the full original interview translated. Sorry if I got any of the translation wrong.
A gift for champions
Elina Svitolina is the first Ukrainian to enter the world's top 15 best tennis players. The current season for the winner of seven WTA tournaments, Grand Slam participant and leader of the Ukrainian team can be called the most successful of her career. Twice this year Elina defeated a world number one - Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber.
Kievstar (mobile phone company) decided to congratulate the athlete on a good year. President Petr Chernishov gave Elina a gift from partner company Huawei - a state of the art Huawei P9 smartphone with modern Leica camera. Also, the Ukrainian received a mobile number which will remind her of her victory over the renowned Serena Williams
[???]. Now anywhere in the world, Elina Svitolina will be able to stay in touch with loved ones because what could be better than to share the joy of victory with family and friends?
In an exclusive interview we talked about her future plans, personal life and sporting victories.
Q: 2016 was quite successful. You reached number 14 on the WTA rankings. How do you evaluate the season? Do you feel 2017 could turn out to be more successful?
The beginning of the season didn't go the way I wanted (Svitolina failed to reach the third round of the Australian Open. As it turned out, the Ukrainian was injured at the start of the competition, after which her on-court struggles continued until May at the tournament in Rome - Ed.
), but then everything went much better. I felt more mentally confident in myself on court, and physically. Also, my preparations and pre-tournament routine have been slightly changed. Overall, at the end of the year I've achieved good results and I'm happy with my season.
Of course, you always want to achieve only the best results. This year, for example, I wanted to get into the top 10. I always set only big goals for myself, because I want to have something to motivate me to move forward. Of course, I will try to play better and I think I have good chances to succeed.
Q: The most spectacular victory of the past year, perhaps, was a dramatic match against the world number one at the Olympic Games in Rio. How do you believe you were able to beat Serena Williams?
Psychologically I was much more stable in this match. During the year there are only a couple of meetings where you're playing 100% and focus only on the match. When you play Serena you feel tremendous pressure, so it was very nice to win. She brings incredible presence - it can crush you, a lot of unnecessary thoughts come into your head which can knock you from the path to success. I tried to shield myself from it, to focus all my attention on her game, and I did it. The second set had some very tense moments, but I was able to survive them, and Williams in turn did not expect me to stay so consistent.
Q: First thoughts after the win?
I still did it, it was over, and I can relax (laughs
Q: This year you also beat another top-ranked player, Angelique Kerber. The impression is that you can beat any opponent except Petra Kvitova. Why is the Czech player such an awkward opponent for you?
I've beaten her once. But this year the matches didn't turn out well; it's hard to say why. There were many different situations, but facing her wasn't easy, she played very confidently, it was very difficult for me to adapt to her power.
Petra Kvitova played great at the US Open and the Olympics against me. Unfortunately beating her did not work out this year.
Q: Watching your matches, it seems to me that you love to play defensively, waiting for the chance to counterattack. Tell me, how do you manage to switch so quickly from defense to attack?
Since I don't have such a speedy serve, for example like Serena Williams, I believe that my strength is my fitness. I can play for a long time and have quite a lot of matches in a row, change the rhythm and pace of the game. And I can do all of this because physically I feel very strong.
It's not always a good tactic to go from defense to offense, it depends on your opponent. For example, with players like Kvitova, they simply crush you with the ball speed. But if you find the right moment and the balance between defense and attack, the opponent will be feeling uncomfortable, and she will not know what to expect from you and what will be your next shot - are you going to attack or keep the ball in the rally?
Q: You show progress year after year. How do you manage to maintain motivation in the sport?
I always have motivation. In tennis it's impossible to win every match, so there is always something to work on. But when you play at such events as a Grand Slam tournament, where are a lot of spectators, it's very motivating. Also my fans always support me. Even if I don't play very well, they send me a lot of supportive messages. It is very nice and helps me to move forward.
Q: How often can you predict the outcome of a match?
It is almost impossible, especially when you cannot predict the match conditions, whether it's windy or sunny, how you will feel on court and so on. Of course, one stays confident in their abilities, but to predict the result of the match - no, I never think about it.
Q: Do you have any superstitions? For example, wear the same outfit in which you have won?
No. In the year we have six collections of outfits so it's impossible to go out in the same clothes (laughs). Superstitions can be very unsettling so it's best not to invent "special omens", and to concentrate on training.
Q: What do you often get given after victories?
Usually, they give me toys. For example, in Japan I always get a lot of gifts and I leave the country with huge bags: T-shirts, handbags, various towels, once someone even gave me "Snoopy" socks... (laughs
). So it's a lot of gifts, but mostly toys.
Q: How do you exercise to stay in shape during the off-season?
Now I have two weeks of complete rest. But it doesn't mean that I forgot about my daily routine. During the season your body is constantly in stress, so you need to give it a rest, but still to do the necessary minimum of fitness exercises.
I always travel with my fitness coach, who creates the programmes for me - some of them are for relaxation, and some - to increase the level of my fitness. We have a specific program which I do before and after the match, before and after the tournament, so we work all the time. And, of course, we try to bring a variety to it, so I won't get bored of the repetitive exercises.
Q: How much time do you spend abroad?
During the season - from January to October - I am abroad most of the time. When I'm in Ukraine I come to Kharkiv; Odessa I visit much less frequently. I take flights every week; I'm used to it. The maximum gap between trips - two weeks. And then at the end of the season I dream to hit the road as soon as possible (laughs
Q: With which tennis players/athletes do you maintain friendships? Who is your idol?
I chat to many girls on the tour, but I don't have a lot of friends. In tennis - only Olga Savchuk. When you're not on the court, you want to focus on other things and not think about tennis. When you go out on the court, before the tournament and during the match there is a lot of pressure, so I want to have other topics to talk about with someone who is far from tennis.
Since childhood, my idol has been Andre Agassi. We've never met, but I've seen him quite often at the big tournaments. Of course, I'd like to meet him (embarrassed
Q: Has anyone captured the heart of Elina Svitolina?
Am I single? I always answer this question (laughs
). What can I say, I'm always open to talking. I'm always very interesting to meet new people (laughs
Q: How do you spend your free time?
I read a lot, because I spend a lot of time on aeroplanes. When I come to different tournaments, I'd like to go for a walk, to see the city, learn something new. If I want to shift my attention, then I'll take a walk in the park or visit a museum, take pictures. I find it very interesting.
Interviewer: Alexander Korshikov
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