Elina Svitolina opens her 2020 season on Monday when she squares off against American, Danielle Collins in the first round of the Brisbane International.
Svitolina is still seeking her first title since the 2018 WTA Finals, having gone through the entirety of last season without winning a title. That came as a major surprise, given how prolific she had been in racking up the titles in the preceding years- she won nine tour-level titles between 2017 and 2018.
Svitolina might have gone title-less in 2019, but it wasn’t all gloom for the Ukrainian, as she recorded her best Grand Slam performances last season, reaching semi-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open.
The 25-year-old had actually made a decent start to the season, contesting the quarter finals of the Australian Open, and consecutive semi-finals in Doha, Dubai and Indian Wells, but hampered by a knee injury sustained in the Middle East, she lost her way in the second quarter of the year, failing to go past the opening round in five of the six tournaments she played after Indian Wells.
She rebounded strongly in the second half of the season, reaching those Grand Slam semi-finals, as well as quarter finals in San Jose, Toronto, Zhengzhou, Wuhan and Beijing. That was good enough to get her into the season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen for the third consecutive year. Svitolina played some of best tennis of the season to reach the final in Shenzhen, but she fell just short of that elusive 2019 title, losing to Ashleigh Barty in the championship match.
Svitolina lost to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in her Brisbane opener last season, but her overall record at the event is good, as she has made at least the semi-finals in her three other appearances. She got to the last four in 2015 and 2017, and won the title in 2018. She will hope to re-enact that 2018 run in 2020, as she looks to halt this rather lengthy trophy drought.
The world No. 6, who recently added former Australian Open finalist, Marcos Baghdatis to her coaching team, begins that bid against American, Danielle Collins on Monday.
After shooting up the rankings in 2018, when she rose from outside the top-150 to end at No. 36, Collins looked set to continue her rapid rise in January 2019 when she made her maiden major semi-final at the Australian Open.
Before then, Collins had never won a Grand Slam match in five previous main draw appearances, but she put together five wins in January last year, including a resounding 6-0 6-2 victory over former world No. 1, Angelique Kerber in the fourth round. That result took Collins up to a career-high No. 23 in the world and seemingly set for a bigger climb, but that would turn out to be her only semi-final of the season.
In fact, she made just one other tour-level quarter final, in Charleston, and was 18-18 for the season. Given the start she had made; she would have expected to do a lot better than that. Collins revealed in October that she had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory condition that causes pain and swelling in the joints. The American said she had been having symptoms of the problem long the diagnosis, which might have been responsible for the slide in her results.
Despite her health problems, Collins still managed to end the year inside the top-30 for the first time in her career, finishing at No. 29.
The 25-year-old lost to Petra Kvitova in her Brisbane debut last season; can she open her account at the WTA Premier tournament when she faces Svitolina for the first time on Monday?
How will her body hold up in what could be a very physical battle against the world No. 6?
Svitolina usually plays very well in Brisbane, and after her positive end to 2019, the Ukrainian starts as favourite on Monday as she bids to get the new season off to a winning start.