Rising Stars Of 2014: Elina
Published April 16, 2014 12:14
Her rise couldn't have been more methodical - junior success, ITF success, WTA 125K Series success and then WTA success - but Elina Svitolina has dramatically taken it to a whole new level in 2014, beating a slew of top players and now settling into her new role as the world's No.1 teenager.
Svitolina first made headlines by winning the French Open girls' title at age 15 - a number of ITF Women's Circuit titles followed the next few years, and then a WTA 125K Series title in Pune, India at the end of the 2012 season. But it was in Baku, Azerbaijan last July where she really strut into the big leagues, beating former World No.11 Shahar Peer in straight sets for her very first WTA title.
The Ukrainian is still the only teenager in more than two years to capture a WTA title.
"Thank you Shahar for a great final," a gracious 18-year-old Svitolina said at the trophy ceremony. "It was a very tough match today and I had a lot of tough matches throughout the week, but I worked really hard coming into the tournament, and it turned out well for me. I'll see you all next year."
Though she was racking up the titles, it wasn't until this year that Svitolina truly began challenging the top players. She has recorded her first four Top 20 wins - Svetlana Kuznetsova at the Australian Open, Roberta Vinci in Paris, Eugenie Bouchard in Miami and Sloane Stephens over in Charleston.
On March 31, Svitolina set a new career-high of No.35 and became the No.1 teenager in the world.
Completely in line with her biggest goal.
"My goal is to make the Top 20 this year," Svitolina said. "Baku last year gave me a lot of confidence, and I've been working hard and getting more and more confident. I think it's possible for me."
After her win over Stephens, she was asked why she's catching up to the biggest names.
"I started to believe more in myself that I can compete with players like this, top level, Top 20 and Top 10," Svitolina commented. "I think this belief is the key, and also tactical things like playing more solid from the baseline, trying to go forward and be more aggressive and finishing the points earlier.
"And of course, I'm getting used to life on the tour more. That's the most important thing when you're just coming up from juniors, building the confidence that you can win against these kinds of players."
And the biggest names are taking notice.
"She's a great player," Agnieszka Radwanska said of the Ukrainian after needing three long sets to put her away in Miami. "It was really tricky, because I didn't know her and she played really solid tennis in all three sets, but she's had a really good run here - she's had a couple of very good wins.
"I think she's really playing some very good tennis these days."