(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Elina Svitolina is looking forward to defending her Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title when play begins in just a few days from now.
Excitement is building not only among tennis fans in Dubai but with Svitolina too, as she prepares to return to the place where her victory over Caroline Wozniacki not only earned her the biggest title of her career but lifted her into the world's top 10 for the first time.
She admits though that she was less than comfortable as she went into last year's final, knowing that there was more than a title at stake.
"I mean, it's big relief that I could win this match, because I knew that if I win this match I'm gonna be top 10," she said. "There was pressure. When I was warming up, added even more pressure because they announce it. It didn't help!"
Svitolina went on to add Istanbul, Rome and Toronto to her winner's trophy haul, and after ending her 2017 season by beating world number one Simona Halep at the WTA Finals she began this season by defeating Karolina Pliskova on the way to claiming the Brisbane title. She then reached a respectable quarterfinal at the Australian Open, establishing herself as the world number three for a second time.
During last season she suffered a number of unexpected defeats to much lower-ranked opponents though, and that is something she has vowed to put right as this new season progresses.
"You know, to have consistency in the game, that's what I'm looking for when I go on the court. And to have this throughout the season, this is my main goal," she said. "Yeah, that's pretty much it. The main goal is to stay healthy and to play all the time on the best level I can. And always, you know, improve, try to challenge myself and play the best what I can."
"Elina Svitolina entertained us all as she played so well to claim the 2017 trophy," said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. "Having also reached the semifinals here in 2016 she clearly enjoys competing in Dubai, and this month she will be attempting to become the first female player to successfully defend her title since Venus Williams in 2010. We welcome her back and wish her well."
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, "Elina is certain to be a leading contender for the title she played so brilliantly to win last year, and it will be interesting to see how well she deals with the pressure of trying to win here again as the defending champion. She will be encouraged that she has already managed to do so in Baku, where she won the title in 2013 and 2014. With so many other top players challenging her we can look forward to an exciting week."
Commenting on her time in Dubai Elina said, "There are so many nice places in Dubai to go. And it's very well organised, this tournament. The hotel is just on-site. The courts, you can practice whenever you want. Everything is well organised. So it just feels very, very comfortable to play here."
Svitolina will face opposition during the first of what promises to be two fantastic weeks of tennis. Play begins with the WTA event that takes place Feb. 19 to 24 and features an impressive seven of the world's top 10., and five former world number ones including Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova, Australian Open runner-up Simona Halep, 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova; 2018 Sydney champion and two time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber.
The tournament continues between Feb. 26 and March 3 with the 26th staging of the ATP World Tour event which is headed by ATP World Tour Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov.
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