World no. 5 Elina Svitolina made a slow start of the previous season before she found the form in Monterrey, just before the coronavirus outbreak. When the season restarted, Elina was the quarter-finalist in Rome and Roland Garros and won the second title of the season in Strasbourg to wrap up the year in the top-5.
The Ukrainian will kick off the 2021 season in Abu Dhabi against Jessica Pegula, hoping for a good start and a couple of wins ahead of Melbourne. In her pre-season interview, Elina spoke about the mental challenges in these troubled times and the new coach she hired to stay focused.
"I think things have been pretty tricky and different for everyone during this pandemic period. It is now equally important to stay strong and fresh. It's a different kind of pressure. I was thinking about a mental coach since the end of 2019, realizing how important it is to stay focused, especially in these challenging times for everyone.
We have seen what the last season has done; life doesn't end on a tennis court. I am trying to be in a good state of mind, which means I need to have the right people around me with the right frame of mind. At the moment, I need to share with my mental coach what is happening inside me, even the smallest and darkest secrets that no one would otherwise know.
And when I started working with her, it released many pressure moments from me. She opened me up and pushed the right buttons. I got introduced to a couple of other coaches, but I didn't strike it with them. And then this lady came along, and it took me some courage before I got the courage to open up with her.
Elina Svitolina is ready for the new season.
It's a matter of finding the right person. I find that my present coach is not picky, and we share a lot while finding the right way for me to feel good and stronger mentally.
It's a bit too complicated, so I decided not to have her travel but rely on distance consulting. She is on her phone all the time. I know the Abu Dhabi center court pretty well, and it is a good feeling to be back in a place where I have spent so many hours.
I think Pegula is a good player. She is very aggressive, and I have to be ready for her since I don't know her well after she missed a couple of seasons due to injury. We are the same age, and we have played juniors at the same time.
I am sure my coach will sit down and break down the game plan for me. The first match is never easy, and I will put everything together for that match. As far as coming here goes, it was not too difficult a decision as I instantly decided that it's enough training for now.
Abu Dhabi is a good location, and I know the stadium and the courts so well. Normally I would be in Dubai, and it's good to get a few matches heading into Melbourne," Elina Svitolina said.