Last month, flitting through pages of a book, Elina Svitolina anxiously waited for her touchdown in India.
Three years ago, Elina, then 18, on her maiden visit to India, had a busy schedule during the Royal Indian Open at Pune. She had to delay her plans to visit the Taj Mahal, as the Ukrainian ended up with her winning the maiden WTA title in that tournament.
But when Elina was signed by Punjab Marshalls for the second season of Champions Tennis League, it seemed her wish was finally coming true.
Winning the coveted tournament was top on her agenda, but she hoped to visit the famous Indian monument too.
As it turned out, her fairtytale run In India contnued as Elina scripted Punjab Marshalls’ success story. Starring in the team’s glorious run, the Punjab team is now just a win away from clinching the trophy. Elina’s superb performance has suddenly catapulted her to stardom.
Her dominating performance against Flavia Pennetta, the reigning US Open champion, and twin victories against Alize Cornet was instrumental in Marshalls’ unbeaten run in the tournament.
“I had prepared in advance for the tournament and I think I played well. I enjoy the format of the tournament and I try to focus on each and every point. It feels great to be a part of such a great team. We all played well, especially during important games. I think we completely deserve to be in the final,” shared the 19th-ranked WTA player.
Barring the opening match against Mumbai Tennis Masters, in which she lost to Pennetta, Elina has played near-perfect matches to put Marshalls in a commanding position.
In the must-win match against Raipur Rangers in the return leg, it was Elina who won the women’s tie 5-3 against France’s Cornet to put the Punjab team ahead.
With captain-cum-legend Greg Rusedksi, the former United Kingdom No.1 in top form, Punjab Marshalls have rolled with the punches this season, finding a groove which resulted in the team’s top-notch display in the tournament.
Despite being on the road for most of the time, Elina is enjoying her stay in India.
“My stay in India has been great. Seeing different part of the country, playing at different venues in front of fans and meeting new people, I am having great time. We have spent most of our time preparing for matches. We are motivated for the final match. Having said that, I hope to see Taj Mahal soon,” Elina, who
was ranked a career-best 15 in August this year after her quarterfinal entry at the French Open, shared.
Even though Elina helped the team wrest the initiative against Raipur Rangers in the return leg, there were a few hairy moments towards the end of the men’s singles tie.
Raipur Rangers fought back and gave Punjab Marshalls goosebumps. Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, high on confidence with his win over Marcos Baghdatis in the previous match, gave the Cypriot a few nervy moments. But the 30-year-old, kept his cool in a pressure cooker situation to help the team win.
“Yes, it was a very tight match and I was under pressure. I tried to stay calm and relaxed and focused on my tactics. I am happy that we won,” said the 2006 Australian Open runner-up.
A lot will depend on Baghdatis’ performance in the final if Marshalls are to lift the title at Hyderabad. He and Saketh Myneni formed a formidable pair in last year’s tournament and guided Pune Marathas to title victory.
“Saketh and I share a great rapport on and off court and we like playing together. I played last year’s final in Hyderabad and it felt nice. The crowd is amazing and I am very happy to be playing again this year. We have a great team this year and I think that if we all keep playing like this we have a great chance of winning,” said the current world 46.
Team owner Gurpreet Singh Kiki also shared his exhaliration. “It is a jubilant moment for everyone associated with the team. My wife Kudrat and I have aith in Greg, Marcos, Elina and Saketh. They are working very hard and the same reflects in their performance,” said Kiki.