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“I feel like I’m 17 again” – Svitolina thriving at pressure-free Roland-Garros

Elina Svitolina has credited her time away from the game for her quarter-final run at Roland-Garros, explaining she feels fresher and pressure-free playing tennis

Elina Svitolina, Roland-Garros, 2023 Elina Svitolina at Roland-Garros 2023

Few would have believed that Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina was capable of making a quarter-final run at Roland-Garros 2023, and yet that’s exactly what the 28-year-old has done over the past eight days.

Playing in her first Grand Slam in 18 months, Svitolina credits the lack of pressure and expectation on her shoulders for the performances she’s been able to deliver so far.

“I don’t have that pressure that I used to have before,” Svitolina explained after her 6-4, 7-6 (5) win over Daria Kasatkina on Sunday.

“No one, you know, expects that, you know, I’m going to come into Roland Garros and make quarterfinal at the beginning of the tournament.”

Constant pressure a challenge for Svitolina in the past

After taking maternity leave to give birth to her first daughter, Elina Svitolina has explained how the time before her break was challenging mentally.

“Being a tennis player brings lots of different things with. You have like this baggage behind you always with the pressure from the media, pressure from, you know, your home, from people, as well. From fans, you know, from social media, as well. It is lots and lots of things happening.

“Obviously you put also a lot of pressure on yourself, and sometimes you can be like too much. Sometimes playing every single week, being under this like in a fishbowl all the time is very tiring. You have to always be perfect almost, you know.”

“My mind rested” – Time away from tennis beneficial for Svitolina

Having played a full junior career before moving onto the WTA Tour, Svitolina’s maternity leave was the first time she’d had a proper break in well over a decade.

The time she recently spent away from tennis, she explained, was incredibly helpful for her game.

“My mind rested. My body rested in the way that it could with the pregnancy. But, you know, this period really helped me to refresh. Then when I start training in January, I was extremely motivated. Like never before almost. I put a lot of good work, a lot of good months into it.

“So, you know, in this time I’m starting with experience that I have and with the freshness. So that’s why, I guess that’s why I came back to the tour quite quick.”

Sabalenka up next for Svitolina in quarter-finals

If Elina Svitolina is to keep her dream running continuing at Roland-Garros 2023, then she’ll need even more magic in her quarter-final on Tuesday.

The Ukrainian will face her third Russian in a row, this time up against No 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka. The Russian motored past Sloane Stephens 7-6 (5), 6-4 in her round of 16 match, and is yet to drop a set in Paris.

Svitolina is focused on her recovery ahead of the match, and isn’t giving too much away about her chances in the Roland-Garros quarter-finals.

“For me right now, important to recover, then practice tomorrow, do the planning for next match, be focused to the next match, and then play well in the match,” said Svitolina.

“Of course I would love to win here. It will be the dream, but it’s always been in my career like step by step. I think this is the only right way to do, to not look too much into the future, because otherwise you lose your focus from the small things that brings you to win the matches.”

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