Elina Svitolina discusses the pressures of playing Venus Williams

22-year-old Elina Svitolina made a statement on Thursday at the Rogers Cup, crushing Venus Williams with the loss of just three games. Despite her young age, the world number five is no stranger to the big stage and big wins. After her win over Williams, a woman who has literally been playing on tour Svitolina’s entire life, the young Ukrainian spoke about what it’s like playing somewhere of Williams’ legendary status and calibre.

Always a challenge

Svitolina came into the match the higher-ranked of the two women, four spots above number nine Williams, but that did not make the Ukrainian feel like a favourite. When asked if she felt like the favourite, she said, “Not really, because when -- I know Venus for many years. And, you know, when they announce that she turned professional in 1994 and I was just born in this year, I was like, okay, then I need to work really hard in this match. So it was -- yeah, it was a great privilege to share the court with her and, yeah, it was even better to beat her and play my game tonight and really stay very solid with my game.”

Svitolina serves during her third round win. Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Svitolina serves during her third round win. Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Despite the massive experience gap between the two women, Svitolina looked more like the veteran, staying calm and consistent in the key moments. Her analysis of the match was “I was expecting that she would put pressure on my serve and, yeah, that's the way she's playing. I was just trying to stay really focused and on the things that I can control. You know, to prepare my serve to be ready for next shot straight away, because she turns very quickly. Yeah, I was really focused. And I was very happy that I could really stay like that during all the match and didn't do so many unforced errors. And, you know, was quite solid performance for me.

Speaking of experience, Svitolina pinpointed the main challenge when playing Williams “is her experience. You know, in the second set, I was 2-0 up and then she was 15-30 on her serve. You know, she played two amazing points. You know, one ace and one really, like, winner from her forehand. So, you know, these kind of things you don't really expect from other players, because sometimes under pressure they do something not normal, you know, and not the right thing. And she knows what she can do, what she can't, and she really manages very well. So, you know, you really need to wait to look for your opportunities when you play such experienced players. Don't let them have any chances because, otherwise, you can, yeah, just get killed.

Svitolina has now defeated both Williams’ sisters, having beaten Serena Williams last year at the Summer Olympics. The young Ukrainian admitted that having she appreciates having that claim to fame. “Yeah, it feels amazing, you know. I don't really think about these things so much because, you know, then you relax and you just, yeah, just don't do the right things. So of course it brings me a lot of confidence.