January 21 2019 – DUBAI, UAE Two-time Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winner Elina Svitolina will bid for an unprecedented third straight title when play gets underway next month. As she moves into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, Svitolina also has her eye on making history in Dubai.
No woman player at the tournament has ever claimed three consecutive crowns. Justine Henin, who at one time coached Svitolina, won it four times in five years between 2003 and 2007, with Lindsay Davenport taking the title in 2005. And Venus Williams won the title in 2009 and 2010. Now Svitolina will bid to earn a unique place in the tournament’s history.
After beating world No. 2 Angelique Kerber in the semi-finals and then former champion Caroline Wozniacki to win the title in 2017, Svitolina was under added pressure as she sought to defend her title in 2018. She beat Kerber again in the semi-finals to set herself up for a clash with Daria Kasatkina, who had performed heroically during the week by defeating not only former winner Agnieszka Radwanska and two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Johanna Konta but also world No. 3 Garbine Muguruza.
“I was under pressure in the final because I was reaching the top ten for the first time,” said Svitolina. “It was a massive deal for me winning here, it gave me lots of confidence to push for the rest of the season. I always like to come back to play in Dubai, the shopping is amazing, the weather is nice, the Centre Court atmosphere is great, the conditions are perfect. It’s nice to be defending champion because it brings you confidence, I just try to stay focused on what I have to do when I go on court."
A few weeks after her second Dubai triumph she added the Rome trophy to her shelf, not only beating Kasatkina and Kerber again but World No. 1 Simona Halep in the final. In addition to that success she reached a semi-final in Montreal and four quarter-finals before ending her season on the highest possible note by lifting the trophy at the WTA Finals in Singapore, grinding out three-set victories in all but one of her five matches there.
"I didn't have the Midas touch. I was tough," Svitolina told the WTA Insider Podcast. "Coming to the week I had zero expectations. I think I was the underdog and no one really expecting anything from me. That really motivated me. I was extremely tough on court. I wouldn't say I had nothing to lose, it was more about a winning mentality. That really helped me. I was just trying to work really hard for every point. I can't say I was playing my best tennis, but I was always ready to work really hard.”
“It takes a very special talent to defend a title, and it was wonderful to see how Elina Svitolina dealt with the expectations and pressure last year,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Now she faces another challenge, to become the first player in the 19-year history of the women’s event to win the title for a third straight time. We eagerly look forward to seeing how she fares.”
It is easy, despite the seemingly glamorous and luxurious lifestyle, to suffer mental as well as physical fatigue during the long season, but Svitolina has found a way to combat that.
“I try always to have small breaks, even for a weekend,” she revealed. “I try to go somewhere I don't see tennis courts. For me, it's very important. Sometimes if I have two days I go to Spain or France just to reset my mind and it really helps me.”
She will also be able to relax at least a little by doing a little sightseeing and shopping between matches, and she will surely begin the week as one of the favourites to win the title.
“Her victory last year proved to be a springboard for a great season, and to end such a busy year by claiming one of the biggest titles the sport has to offer was a magnificent achievement,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “She will clearly be a strong contender to win the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships yet again, although she faces formidable opposition from almost every other player in the top 10.”
The fantastic week of women’s tennis will be followed by an equally thrilling men’s event headed by seven-time champion Roger Federer, 2018 winner and recent Doha champion Roberto Bautista Agut, former US Open winner Marin Cilic, two-time finalist Tomas Berdych and Dubai debutant Kei Nishikori.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, begins with the WTA event which takes place between 17th and 23rd February, and is followed by the ATP event between 25th February and 2nd March.