The winner of four WTA tournaments and Ukrainian Fed Cup player Elina Svitolina (21) became the member of EMPIRE Tennis Academy in February 2016. Facilities in Trnava are providing the top class conditions for her. How does she feel in Slovakia, what does she like here or what are her goals for this season or the whole career? She reveals her answers in this interesting interview.
When did you hear about EMPIRE Tennis Academy for the first time?
"I heard about it one year ago. I heard that there were great facilities here, good atmosphere and professional focus on the tennis practice."
How do you feel in Trnava?
"For me, it is a perfect place to be 100 percent focused. There are no distractions here. You can be focused on your game, on your fitness preparation; I am just enjoying the place for now. And I have already been in the town center, I have seen many churches, it’s a nice old town, I like that."
What do you think about such the players of the academy as Kasatkina, Blinkova, Dubrivnyy?
"I have seen young and even younger players who play very well. They have good technique, it seems that coaches are doing great job here. This academy looks like a very professional one and they also have very professional views on tennis. I’m happy to be a part of this."
Who has already been your sparring partner?
"I travel with Oliver Nagy, my sparring partner, for now. When I’m in Trnava I practice with him, it goes well."
Apart from tennis, what had you known about Slovakia before you arrived here?
"I played at the U18 junior tournament in Slovakia in Piestany. I had been travelling to this area a lot when I was younger. Slovakia is a really nice country with nice people. It has a culture similar to ours in Ukraine and it really feels similar to my country."
How does your average day in the academy look like?
"My day normally starts at 09:00 AM with practice; I need to do a lot of warm-up and it depends on the weather. If it is cold I have longer warm-up in the gym. I spend one hour or one and half hour on the court and then I have lunch. Then I have one more practice at three o’clock. What follows later is the fitness workout, physiotherapy, dinner and the rest."
Are these kinds of tennis academies in Ukraine?
"In Ukraine, we don’t have real academies; rather clubs. I had been attending such place when I was practicing for many years. It’s in Kharkov and it was important for my junior career. I always come back to the Gold Club we still have. It’s an amazing place."
What do you want do achieve in tennis, what is your aim or dream?
"My dream is to win all four grand slams. To win Olympics is one of my big dreams as well. In Ukraine, it is tough to become famous because of the situation in politics. There are many other things people are talking about. So sport is a little bit behind that all. That’s why you need to show some amazing results to be known in the Ukraine. It’s a big thing for me when people recognize you for your job and your achievements."
There were/are lot of players from Ukraine training in Slovakia, why do you think it is so? (Stakhovsky, Marchenko, Bubka…)
"I know that Stakhovsky had been training here for many years. He was in Slovakia because he found a good coach and a training base here. And from Slovakia, it is much easier to travel to other tournaments. It is much harder to travel from Ukraine. When I needed to make two or three connections; I had to leave from Kharkov to Kiev or Istanbul. When I was flying to Colombia, I had to make three stops and it took 27 hours. First of all, it’s not good for health, and you lose so much time. It’s not so comfortable."
What is your most favorite grand slam and why? You were in the singles quarterfinal at Roland Garros 2015…
"All grand slams are very special. I don‘t have any preference. I try to take one grand slam at the time. Roland Garros had already become special for me; I won it in junior times in 2010. But I don’t have any preference as it only puts more pressure on you. You don’t need to do these kinds of things. It’s just another tournament; you need to keep it simple."
Is the clay one of your favorite surfaces or it doesn’t matter?
"I think I play well on both surfaces. If you see my titles, they have been on the clay and hard courts, too. It doesn’t matter, my game is really adaptable."
What are the strongest points of your game?
"I think it’s playing from the baseline, I’m solid in that. But to be fit, it is one of the most important things for me. I need to be injury free."
What kind of person are you?
"I’m extremely competitive on the court. It’s very important for me to win. Off the court I am more relaxed and calm. I am a completely different person on court and off court. "
Why do you like tennis?
"Because of competitiveness. From the young age, I had been watching my brother playing and I was trying to be better and better every day. I want to go forward with my rankings and my game."
How long have you been with your coach Iain Hughes? Why does your cooperation work?
"For 2 years. We met four years ago, we practiced few times together. It was completely different feeling; it was the best thing for me. I don’t know why does it work, it is just this feeling, experience is good, communication is good and there is an improvement because of that. We are trying to improve every day, every practice, we want to learn something. "
How do you evaluate your cooperation with Justine Henin so far?
"She helps me with her experience. It’s amazing what she had achieved in her career. It gives me more motivation during the practice. She brings something special to our team."
What do you consider to be your biggest success in your career so far?
"One of my greatest achievements is to have achieved the highest WTA rankings (No. 14) in the history of my country. That was the best for me."
What do you consider to be your best tournament in 2016 (Kuala Lumpur or Dubai)?
"For me, there were few good tournaments. In Dubai, I was in the semifinal. I’ve been playing on the high level almost for the whole tournament. It was important to me. It was a good sign that I was working on those things and they worked. In Kuala Lumpur, there were extremely hard conditions because of 45 degrees Celsius. It’s really humid there. I’m happy that I won."
What is your goal for this season?
"The goal is to play in Singapore at the WTA finals. Of course, first of all, I must improve my game. When I play at my best, the results will come and rankings obviously come with that, too."
What do you need to be in the Top 10?
"To keep my level physically because I think this is my game. I need to be consistent."
What do you do when you don’t train? Do you have any hobbies? Do you have time for that?
"I read a lot. Nowadays, I prefer the books about psychology. I like all kind of books. Because I want to think about something different, imagination is just a good thing to change from tennis."
How would your ideal vacation look like?
"I like both, mountains and beach as well. It depends on my mood. I like summer and winter, too. It’s tough to choose. It depends on my mood and how I feel physically. When I want to lie down and relax, I go to the beach. When I have energy, I can go to the mountains. I can walk and see some interesting things."