Svitolina harnessing Paris power

 - Alex Sharp

No.9 seed faces former champion Muguruza in third round on Friday.

Elina Svitolina second round Roland Garros 2019©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Elina Svitolina has always adored Roland-Garros since watching the tournament host the finest players duel on TV during her childhood.

The Ukrainian cherished Paris even more after lifting the girls' title back in 2010.

Now, Svitolina has a French boyfriend - you might of heard of Gael Monfils - and is hoping this affection for Paris can boost her chances at her “home” major.

“I have some really great memories coming back here. I’ve had some tough matches, some great comebacks, some tough losses,” Svitolina told Live at Roland-Garros. “It’s been difficult the past couple of years here because I haven’t played my best tennis here and I wish it would have been better.”

Quarter-final journeys in 2015 and 2017 represent the 24-year-old’s furthest progress in Paris, but Svitolina has been handed a tough draw in 2019; in the first round the Ukrainian dispatched Venus Williams 6-3, 6-3 and she now faces former champion Garbine Muguruza for a ticket into the last 16.
“This year I don’t have any expectations, I’ve been struggling a little bit with injuries. I just have to take it one match, one day at a time,” said the No.9 seed. “I try to recover and be ready for the next match. I take every match here as a final and I’ll try to focus on this.”

A niggling knee injury has hampered Svitolina since February, which was unusual territory for the 2018 WTA Finals winner.

“It’s been really tough for me. It’s actually the first time I’ve had a serious injury where I’ve had to completely stop playing for seven weeks. I started again, but felt pain again so it was a case of more treatment, more recovery. It was not easy for me to stop and reset,” continued Svitolina, who entered Roland-Garros off the back of opening-round defeats in Madrid and Rome.

“We decided to play the clay season, playing with a little bit of pain. We are doing everything in our power. For me it’s important to just focus on what I can control.”

The world No.9 relishes a return to Paris every year to absorb the sights, sounds and cuisine.

“I think it is just the atmosphere, everything that comes with Paris; the good food, salmon tartare is a dish I like, I love croissants too. There are so many good restaurants around here. A lot of them have amazing architecture, so you can really enjoy your food in a really nice atmosphere,” she explained.

“My favourite restaurants have a soul and when you enter you feel like a little part of the history. I find it really relaxing for your mind and body. 

"The people have real character. I think that is why it is special and a bit different from other cities.”

Elina Svitolina Roland Garros 2019 practice©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

Dating Frenchman and world No.17 Monfils has its perks, but has also prompted Svitolina to improve her linguistic skills.

“He shares a lot about his previous times and matches here. He also used to live in this great city for many years. He knows all of the great places, so it’s nice to have him close to me, so we can enjoy our time together,” said Svitolina, who is trying to develop her French.

“It’s not bad. I’m getting better. I’ve been put under a lot of pressure because Gael’s parents don’t speak English.

“I’ve never beaten this barrier of speaking. I speak sometimes with Gael, a little bit, but I’m too scared to make a mistake and then I switch to English. I can understand pretty much everything, I just need some more confidence with the language.”

Should Svitolina master the language, she will feel even more at home in Paris.

“I think every Slam is special, they all have their own energy. For sure I would count this one more as my home Slam and I’ll try to be ready and really enjoy it.

“My friends and family are coming, it’s closer to Ukraine than the other ones, so it definitely feels more like home.”