Psychology gives Svitolina an edge, on and off court

 - Alex Sharp

World No.6 dispatches Ann Li in straight sets to surge into the third round for the seventh successive Roland-Garros.

Elina Svitolina, Roland Garros 2021, second round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Learning the ropes of professional psychology, Elina Svitolina, who is engaged to French star Gael Monfils, offered an insight into her own relationship.

“Well he always has to agree with me because I’m the boss in the house,” quipped the Ukrainian during her on-court interview with Fabrice Santoro on Thursday.

Later in her press conference, the fifth-seeded Svitolina, who advanced to the third round for a seventh year in a row at Roland-Garros with victory over Ann Li, was eager to stress she was joking about the dynamic at home with Monfils.

Engaged in April, the '' duo are benefiting from the mutual support they give each other, with the added understanding that comes with being professional athletes, irrespective of who is in charge.

"The good boss is the one who understands, because I think it has to be both ways, and I think relationships go both ways. You have to listen and you have to speak. It's all about the communication,” explained the 26-year-old.

Elina Svitolina, Gael Monfils, US Open 2019© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

“For sure I have my opinion, but sometimes it's really tough to say because the person has their own feeling, their own opinion, and sometimes you just have to step back to understand that maybe the person is not seeing it the same way. Talking about the problem on the court, off the court, I think that's the most important.”

The tennis world is so relentless; week-in, week-out you can have your confidence chipped away, making Svitolina even more grateful for meeting her match in life.

“We speak a lot. It’s really helpful we both compete at the highest level of tennis. We understand what we are both going through," said the three-time Roland-Garros quarter-finalist.

"It’s really amazing to have someone by your side who can share the same emotions and the same problems.”

Elina Svitolina, Roland Garros 2021, second round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

The No.5 seed has been in great form so far on court at Roland-Garros, navigating past the artillery of American world No.75 Li 6-0, 6-4 on Thursday to meet recent Strasbourg champion Barbora Krejcikova in the last 32. 

The Ukrainian blitzed the first set in just 28 minutes with superbly-controlled aggression and then rallied from 1-4 down in the second to sail through in straight sets. It was punchy and a pleasure to watch.

“I'm really happy that the way that I was down in both matches in the second set and found a way, found a good level and didn't give up and didn't give up on the second set. That was a really good point for me, and was really playing composed in both matches,” added Svitolina.

“All the time even, in the past, I had some really tough losses here. I also had some really amazing comebacks. When I come here, I always have good memories. I try to put tough battles aside and only look for positives, at in the end I really enjoy the crowd.”

The world No.6 enjoyed a fruitful build-up to her favourite swing of the season, achieving semi-finals in Stuttgart and a quarter-final ticket in Rome. 

Over to Paris and Svitolina hopes to utilise her studies to give an extra edge on the court.

The 26-year-old, already with a nutrition degree to her name, is completing online courses to enhance her mental fortitude and future.

"I'm very interested in psychology and I'm doing some courses. I think it's a big part of tennis, of any sport, and working myself with a mental coach, as well,” revealed the inquisitive Svitolina.

“I think it's very important, especially these days with everything what's happening with Covid, with all the restrictions that we get and anything that happens with athletes. It's important to keep yourself really composed, really like sane with your mind, to be just ready for anything what comes your way and try to accept that and work with that.

“It's not only about sports, it's also just a general one because we are athletes but also there is life after tennis. You have to be ready to stop any time because you never know what can happen. The injury can come any time and, touch wood, it will not happen, but you never know, try to be ready for anything.”