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'You have to believe. You have to trust your game', Svitolina reflects on reaching back-to-back Grand Slam semi-finals

Leye Aduloju in WTA Tour 5 Sep 2019
  • Elina Svitolina will contest her second straight Grand Slam semi-final on Thursday as she takes on Serena Williams at the US Open
  • Svitolina reached her first major semi-final at Wimbledon- at the 28th attempt
Elina Svitolina (PA Sport)

Elina Svitolina could not make a Grand Slam semi-final through her first 27 majors, but she has now reached the last four in consecutive Slams, backing up her surprise run at Wimbledon with a rock solid campaign at Flushing Meadows.

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Svitolina has moved through the draw without dropping a set, taking out Whitney Osuigwe, Venus Williams, Dayana Yastremska, Madison Keys and Johanna Konta to take her place in the US Open semi-finals for the first time in her career, and set up an intriguing last four clash with 23-time major champion, Serena Williams.

It is quite ironic that Svitolina's best Grand Slam performances have come in a season when she had been below her best in regular WTA tournaments, but she has overcome a difficult first half, during which she struggled with a knee injury, to produce some of the best tennis of her career. The 13-time WTA titlist is still yet to make a final this year, let alone win a title, but she won't be too bothered with that, now that she is reaching semi-finals in Slams.

Svitolina has been one of the most consistent players on the WTA Tour in the last few years, winning at least three titles in each of the last three seasons, and establishing herself firmly inside the top-10, but a major criticism of the Ukrainian had been her failure to make a significant run at a Grand Slam. That has now been addressed to an extent.

She will still want to go on and win one of the Slams, but at least she has taken a big step forward after a long period of seeming major stagnancy.

Svitolina made four quarter finals during those previous 27 Grand Slams, while she had reached the fourth round at the US Open in successive years before finally crossing over to the semi-finals. 

"I think all my career I have been going step by step," Svitolina said, reflecting on her progression in the Slams. "I was going very slowly - not so slowly, because still, I was quite consistent, I would say - but I had some tough matches in the Round of 16, quarterfinals before I started to win them”. 
"I think it's been tough and painful losses sometimes, but I think they gave me this push, this confidence and maybe helped me in some matches."

Svitolina's lack of a major offensive weapon was thought to be a major hindrance in her quest for Grand Slam success, but the 24-year-old has evolved her game over the last few years, and showed that she can win big titles when she battled to the WTA Finals crown in Singapore last year.

"I think since Singapore I handled the pressure very good” she said. “When I'm fit and when I'm ready to play, I can play very solid and have very good baseline game."

When she first broke on to the tour, Svitolina initially came across as a tenacious baseliner, who will hunt down balls and goad her opponents into errors, but she has added several layers of aggression to her game. She remains one of the finest counter-punchers on the tour, but she is also actively looking step into the baseline and take control of points.

"It's about the small details. You have to believe. You have to trust your game. You know, we are in the top of the women's tennis, and everyone can hit the ball over the net. Everyone can play three, four, five, six balls over the net. So you have to find the way to be consistent, find those small opportunities, and take them." 
"It has to be coming from me, always have to be confident about your game, have to trust the game. I'm playing for many years now. I practice many, many hours. I try to take this as my confidence, my preparation."

Despite her excellent form so far in New York, Svitolina goes into Friday's semi-final against Serena Williams as a heavy underdog, but she will take encouragement from defeating the American in their most recent meeting at the Rio Olympics. Williams had won the previous four encounters. 

It was at the US Open that Svitolina made her Grand Slam main draw debut back in 2011- will New York be the site of her first Grand Slam final?

"It was something special and definitely unbelievable, because when you're coming to New York, there's all this hectic atmosphere and city takes lots of energy out of you. By the years, you start to learn how to handle it. You know, New York has a special place in my career, definitely. Making semifinal here, it's very nice feeling."

Serena Williams vs Elina Svitolina is live from New York on Thursday, 5 September from 7:00pm local time/ 12:00am BST (Friday morning). Read the full preview here.

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"You have to believe. You have to trust your game", Svitolina reflects on reaching back-to-back Grand Slam semi-finals

Elina Svitolina will contest her second straight Grand Slam semi-final on Thursday as she takes on Serena Williams at the US Open.

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