Last year, Elina Svitolina left Dubai disappointed by her semi-final defeat to Sara Errani, particularly because her coach at the time, Justine Henin, a four-time champion in Emirates, was in the stands watching.
This year, Henin was not in Svitolina’s corner as she’s pregnant and taking time off, but the Belgian was surely following on TV as her former charge defeated Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-2 to claim her biggest title to-date on Saturday and crack the top-10 for the first time in her career.
“She sent me some congratulations yesterday, so now I don’t know. I didn’t see. But yesterday she said ‘congrats and amazing’,” an elated Svitolina said of Henin.
“So I knew that she won here many times, and last year when I have been here, I was very disappointed that I lost in semifinal and then I was very disappointed that I couldn’t do it last year, but this year I did it.”
Svitolina followed up her win over top-seeded Angelique Kerber in the semis with a comfortable success over 2011 champion Wozniacki, to rise to No10 in the world and extend her winning streak to 12 consecutive matches.
The 22-year-old Ukrainian had won five WTA titles heading into Dubai, including a trophy in Taipei earlier this month – but all her triumphs had come at the International level, the lowest tier of tournaments on the circuit.
Dubai is a prestigious Premier 5 event and the win saw Svitolina nab 900 ranking points and pocket $487,245.
“Of course those small titles, it was just building, and then it was like ‘Come on, you need to try to take those good things from small tournaments that you win and play very consistent into the big tournaments and big matches, you know, this consistency’,” explained Svitolina.
“So I’m now very happy that I could play great week, very solid tennis for me. Of course, there have been some downs, but the way I recovered, I’m really happy the way I did it.”
Svitolina drew first blood against Wozniacki, breaking in game five on her first opportunity of the match and consolidated for a 4-2 lead.
Serving for the set, the Ukrainian faced triple-break point but stood her ground and finally sealed it on her fourth chance with a service winner.
Just like in the first set, Svitolina broke the Wozniacki serve in the fifth game but this time, the No7 seed stepped on the gas pedal to break again and secured the title shortly after.
Wozniacki was playing her second final in as many weeks and admits she ran out of steam a little bit.
“She gets a lot of balls back. She mixed up the pace well. She did what she had to do today,” said Wozniacki, who will rise to No14 in the rankings tomorrow and has only 145 points to defend until the US Open end of August.
“I think I started off really well. I feel like I was inside the court a lot. You know, I was dictating and playing well.
“Then I kind of felt like I ran out of steam a little bit and she took advantage of that. She stepped it up a little bit, and that was kind of that, you know. I really tried hard. Obviously it’s frustrating when you see what you want to do out there and you just can’t do it. You know, that’s the most frustrating feeling.”