By John O’Brien
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Elina Svitolina once again ripped up the form book at the WTA Finals as she completed an impeccable and unlikely run to the semi-finals with a pulsating victory over Caroline Wozniacki on Thursday.
Three early-season title wins helped her qualify for the season-ending event but a premature exit at Wimbledon kicked off a period of soul-searching that has helped her in Singapore.
“These tough moments have definitely made me stronger,” the 24-year-old told reporters after she completed round robin play with a 5-7 7-5 6-3 victory over the Danish defending champion.
“Coming into this tournament it was very important mentally to bounce back after I had a really, really tough second part of the season,” added Svitolina, who also beat Czech duo Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova in White Group play.
A run to the Australian Open semi-finals in January lifted her to third in the rankings but that is as good as it got for her at the slams.
A first-round exit at Wimbledon in July prompted the Ukrainian to make some physical changes.
Her slight 5-foot-9 frame looked more leaner than usual during the American hard-court season. Although she was beaten in the fourth round of the U.S. Open, she is hopeful that in the long run the changes will help her to make a winning breakthrough at the majors.
“I split with my coach, Thierry (Ascione), and it was not easy. With all the things going on, on social media, with the opinions about my physique, it wasn’t easy,” she added.
“I now know that it is better to only follow my path not get caught up in a thousand opinions, million opinions. I just have to do my job and go on court.”
Svitolina added that the complexities of round robin play had added to the stress of her match against Wozniacki. The Ukrainian needed to win only one set to advance but a straight sets defeat could have eliminated her even though she had won her opening two matches.
“This round robin is not easy, no easy matches, no easy scenarios,” she said.
“So I had to fight for every ball and I think today I was really pushed mentally to get through some really, really tough moments.”
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)