The member of EMPIRE Tennis Academy in Trnava Elina Svitolina reached No. 10 in the WTA rankings recently. It is a big thing for her but other important goals are still ahead. For example, to surpass her countryman Adrei Medvedev, he was No. 4 and then, one day, to be world No. 1 as the first Ukrainian ever. She spent a couple of days in Trnava this week, played with talented kids, talked to Slovak media and she also needed the rest after the tough, but the successful start of the tennis season 2017.
How does it feel to be back in Trnava?
"It’s nice to be back here, it is great weather right now, I’m very happy that I have the opportunity to be here."
How was it to play with kids here?
"At almost every tournament I play with kids. For me, it is a pure joy to introduce tennis to them and to try to inspire them. I think it is a big part of tennis just try to promote and to show them that tennis is a very competitive sport, and it is fun to play it. It was very important for me also in Ukraine when we played Fed Cup to meet kids and to show them tennis. Also, we had sold out stadium so it was a great experience and I felt goosebumps there. It was so unreal for me."
Do you get questions about EMPIRE Tennis Academy in Trnava? Why do you promote it?
"I get a lot of questions where I train. It‘s a great thing to train also here, as this is a great base in Europe. I can play on hard courts or clay courts. I get the attention from the media. It is also good that Academy is not so far from Bratislava and Vienna, where I was on Thursday. I love to go sightseeing because when we play it is very tough so I do not have time for this."
Have you seen also Trnava, the old town?
"I saw nice churches here, this city is small but nice."
You have started the season 2017 very well and won the tournaments in Taiwan and Dubai. How was it?
"It was a very good start. I played a lot of matches. It was something different for me because I also finished the season 2016 very well. It was very important for me to start the new season well, although I didn’t play well at the Australian Open. But then I was satisfied with the results in Brisbane, Taiwan and Dubai. So, first of all, I played well and matches I won the matches. It was amazing that I could win the matches when I was down, I’m very happy."
If you could say more about matches against Kerber or Wozniacki that you won in Dubai...
"There were some matches when I didn’t play well but I won. It was important to find my game in the end. Semi-final and final was very important for me in Dubai. Against Kerber it was a tough match, I was very happy that I could finish it very strong. And against Wozniacki, there was a lot of pressure, lots of things were coming up. It was tough, especially mentally. I was aware of the situation that I could win the biggest title of my career. Also reaching Top 10 was a massive thing for me. I‘m happy that I could win those matches and I’ve played very good tennis. "
You told us once that it is very important for you to be one of the best tennis players in the history of Ukraine. Was anybody better than you in your country?
"When we talk about women, no. And men, yes, it was Andrei Medvedev, he was world No. 4 (in 1994). And now it is my nearest goal. (smile)"
An Ukrainian tennis is on the rise. You shared the photo on the social media not so long ago where we saw your countrymen after the successful weekend...
"Yes, there were some interesting victories of Dolgopolov, Tsurenko, Savchuk. It’s been very good two or three months for tennis in our country. It is important to have those victories, results, and memories. It very tough to improve in our country so I’m very proud of this."
How did you feel during the Dubai ceremony... Was it the best feeling in your tennis life so far?
"It was one of the best feelings in my life. An achieving of Top 10 is a massive thing for the tennis in Ukraine. It is amazing and I was dreaming about these things when I was young – to do something for my country and to be known in my country. And another important thing is that I can play with the best players, to challenge them, to beat them."
Did you feel tired after all those successes?
"Yes, a little bit because Fed Cup took me a lot of energy, too. I have reached 4th round in Indian Wells, it was quite good but then I wasn’t prepared mentally, I wasn’t ready to fight and that continued in Miami. Then I realized that I didn’t rest enough. We are trying to analyze that with my coaches. Now, I’m trying to recover and go on to move forward."
To be in the Top 10... Is this situation different for you?
"Not really, it is kind of the same thing. There will be little movements in the rankings because everyone plays each week. And the gap between the rankings spots is very close, so it is just another step for me. What matters to me now is to win the tournaments. That’s why I think about how I can play better, how I can improve my game. It is my main goal now."
What is your goal now?
"It is to be No. 1. But I don’t want to focus on my rankings but on my game. I have to train and play and give everything and then you don’t have any regrets. Try to move forward all the time and stay healthy. It’s going to be difficult. You need to win grandslams to play consistently, that’s what the best players do."
What are your next tournaments?
"I will be training next couple of weeks and I will play Fed Cup against Germany. Then I’ll play in Istanbul, Madrid and Rome and Roland Garros."
How did you spend time recently?
"I had to do some things in Ukraine for which I didn’t have time when I was traveling because of the tournaments. I was trying to recover because I was pretty busy and now I’m starting to prepare for the clay season."
Where will you start your preparation?
"In Paris. Because my coach Thierry Ascione who is my part time coach has more time now. His trainee Tsonga has become a father recently so I have the opportunity to work with him and to take the best of it. Clay surface is completely different surface, I need to prevent the injury, the season is quite long. I have to be ready."
Do you have more coaches?
"Yes, in the beginning of the season I was working with Gabriel Urpi, but the main coach is Thierry Ascione. I’m going to sit with him and spend the time during the next weeks, just like we did during the off-season. We will be in Paris or in All in Academy near Paris, there are a lot of places where I can train."
What about your cooperation with Justine Henin? Is it still ongoing?
"No, because she is expecting her second child. She is focused on that right know."
In Miami, you did great art photo shooting... What was it exactly?
"It was a very good experience to do something different. It was a part od WTA promotion event. It was very nice to see those kinds of arts. Very impressive. There is a street there where the artists come once in a year and they compete to have the best drawing."
Maybe you can be a fashion model or you can launch your own clothing brand... Do you like this part of your life?
"I have the cooperation with the best Ukrainian fashion designer Liliya Poustovit. When I go to the WTA events during the tournaments I always wear her work. For sure, I would be happy to play part in some kind of designing, but I’m more interested in promoting the Ukrainian fashion the way Liliya does. These days, she is very busy, she is opening shops in Paris, in Ukraine as well. But I don’t rush things to have my own brand. I just want to play better tennis now. (smile)"
Are you looking forward to the clay season?
"Of course I am trying to prepare well. I am doing fitness preparation because it is very important to be physically one hundred percent ready. There are going to be many rallies. You are sliding a lot, it can hurt your body, but when you are prepared it is easier to play on it."
Do you like Roland Garros? For some players, it is too small to have one of the grand slam there...
"I won the junior title there so it was always something special for me all the time. It is always nice to be back there, it has a nice history. I have always liked the stadiums, courts, I played singles quarter-final there later. They built another training center with courts and gym, I just hope that it won’t be raining so much as last year. I don‘t think that they need a new center court. I don’t think that the main court needs a roof. It’s special, nice and looks very beautiful. It will be different when they build up a roof."