Elina Svitolina says being able to play more freely with fewer expectations has contributed towards her run at the French Open this year.
The 28-year-old sealed her place in the quarter-finals of Roland Garros on Sunday after beating Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 7-6(5). It is a remarkable result for Svitolina who returned to competitive tennis less than two months ago after giving birth to her first child. The French Open is only the sixth WTA-level event she has played this season.
Due to her break from the Tour, Svitolina has to once again climb back up the rankings. At 192nd in the world, she used her protected ranking to gain entry into the French Open main draw this year. A stark contrast to when she last played the event back in 2021 as the fifth seed. However, she believes that there is a silver lining to her current situation.
“I think this is one of the things that I noticed that right now I don’t have that pressure that I used to have before,” Svitolina explained following her win over Kasatkina.
“Of course, I put pressure on myself because I want to win a slam. This is the ultimate goal for me. But definitely not the pressure from outside.’
“I’m going to come into Roland Garros and make the quarterfinal at the beginning of the tournament. I don’t think many people would say, ‘Yeah she’s gonna do it.’”
“That’s why I feel like this really helps me. I feel almost like I’m 17 again coming on the tour fresh. I’m not defending any points.”
It isn’t only her underdog status which is helping Svitolina blossom in Paris, it is also the support she has received from the crowd. She is married to French tennis star Gael Monfils and it appears that the country has adopted her as one of their own.
“Last French player standing,” she joked.
“I’m just thankful for the crowd to be there for me, even though it was some matches I was one set down and coming back to win, they are cheering me on and giving me this push and this hope that I can come back and can win.”
Svitolina now finds herself on an eight-match winning streak on the Tour. A week before Paris she won her 17th WTA title in Strasburg. Then at the clay-court Grand Slam, she scored wins over 26th seed Martina Trevisan, Storm Sanders, Anna Blinkova and Kasatkina.
For some taking a lengthy break from the Tour could hinder their tennis careers but Svitolina believes her maternity break has had the opposite effect on her. She didn’t play a single match for 12 months between April 2022 and April 2023.
“It was a great period of time to be away from tennis, to be completely switched off from it. I really could enjoy my time with my family,” she explained.
“Not talking about the next tournament, the next goal or the next player that I’m gonna play. My mind rested. My body rested in the way that it could with the pregnancy.’
“This period really helped me to refresh. Then when I started training in January, I was extremely motivated. Like almost never before.”
It is the fourth time Svitolina has reached the quarter-finals of the French Open but she is yet to reach the last four of the tournament. In the next round, she could face Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka if she beats Sloane Stephens in her fourth round match.
Asian Games Champion Qinwen Zheng Reveals Shock Departure Of Coach Fissette
China’s Qinwen Zheng says she feels ‘hurt’ by the decision of her former coach to end their collaboration in order to work with another player.
The US Open quarter-finalist had been working with Belgium’s Wim Fissette in recent weeks following the departure of Pere Riba who is now the coach of Coco Gauff. Fissette has a wealth of experience in women’s tennis after working with the likes of Kim Clijsters and Naomi Osaka. However, Zheng says she is now looking for a new mentor.
“I understand his decision, but my family and I feel hurt. Right now I don’t want to talk about this person (Fissette),’ journalist Bendou Zhang quoted her as saying.
Fissette is yet to comment on his departure. He had previously coached former world No.1 Osaka between 2019-2022 and during this period she won two of her four Grand Slam titles. The American-based Japanese player is on maternity leave from the sport and gave birth to her first child in July.
20-year-old Zheng is currently ranked 23rd in the world and won her maiden WTA title in Palermo earlier this year. She is the youngest player from her country to have reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam in the Open Era following her run at Flushing Medows. This year she has beaten top 10 players Ons Jabeur and Daria Kasatkina.
Zheng’s latest career milestone is winning gold at the Asian Games on Friday. in the final, she defeated Zhu Lin 6-2, 6-4, in the blistering Hangzhou heat.
“The feeling was incredible,” Zheng said. “I’m really happy about that. That was not an easy match today and also yesterday (in semifinal against Alex Eala). All of them are good fighters.”
It is not clear who Zheng will be working with during the Asian swing.
Daria Kasatkina Criticises Decision To Not Use Roof At Sweltering Pan Pacific Open
Daria Kasatkina has taken a swipe at organizers at the Toray Pan Pacific Open for not using the roof to cover their premier court on Thursday due to the heat.
The Russian played her second round match against Despina Papamichail in temperatures around 30 degrees with the humidity making it feel even warmer. Kasatkina battled to a 6-4, 6-4, win after spending more than two hours on the court. She dropped serve four times in the match but managed to break Papamichail seven times en route to victory.
Speaking on the court following his latest tour win, the world No.13 admitted that she struggled in the conditions and implied that she believed the roof should have been closed to shield the players from the sun. Tokyo, which is where the tournament is staged, has experienced a record-breaking number of ‘extremely hot’ days this year with their autumn season being warmer than usual. Something that some warn could be a more regular occurrence due to climate change.
“We cannot do much about it. We are using the ice towels and some supplements to keep you hydrated. By at the end, you cannot fight with something you cannot control,” Kasatkina commented on the conditions during her on-court interview.
“I think in these kinds of conditions, if you have a roof, better maybe to close it. If you have these opportunities, better to use it than to make players almost die on the field.” She added.
Kasatkina is through to her seventh Tour quarter-final of the season. Awaiting her in the next round will be second seed Jessica Pegula who beat Spain’s Cristina Bucșa 6-1, 6-2, in her second round match on Wednesday. It will be only the second Tour meeting between the two players and their first on a hard court.
Elsewhere in Tokyo, another player to reach the last eight in France’s Caroline Garcia who beat Anhelina Kahlinina 6-4, 6-3. Meanwhile, Anastasia Pavlychenkova defeated Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
Barbora Krejcikova Does The Double In San Jose
After what has been a challenging past few weeks on the Tour, Barbora Krejcikova has returned to the winner’s circle by claiming both the singles and doubles titles at the San Diego Open.
The world No.13 battled to a marathon 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, win over Sofia Kenin in what was a clash of the former Grand Slam champions. Krejcikova was pushed to her limits throughout the two-and-a-half-hour clash with there being no break in the decider until the final game. It is the second singles title the Czech has won on the WTA Tour this season after Dubai and her seventh overall.
“Normally I wouldn’t be here,” said Krejcikova, who received a wild card to play in the tournament “I really want to thank them (the tournament organisers). It was very special. I really enjoyed my stay here.”
Krejcikova’s run to the trophy has also seen her score wins over Beatriz Haddad Maia and Danielle Collins earlier in the week. She is the first player from her country to win the tournament.
Following on from that triumph, the 27-year-old then clinched the doubles title alongside compatriot Katerina Siniakova. The duo beat Collins and Coco Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-4.
Krejcikova came into San Jose on a four-match losing streak which started at Wimbledon where she was forced to withdraw from her secound round clash due to a left leg injury.
“I came here with not really good statistics after my injury, I didn’t actually win any matches,” she said. “So I just came here and I pretty much was hoping and believing that I could get the first win and go from there. It’s pretty special to be sitting here having won [the title].”
It is only the second time in Krejcikova’s career that she has won both the singles and doubles titles at the same event. The first time she did so was at the 2021 French Open where her partner in the doubles was also Siniakova.
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