By McCarton Ackerman
Throughout the year, EmiratesUSOpenSeries.com will feature players who could make an impact during this year's Series. Here’s a look at 19-year-old Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
The Baseline: Svitolina might be the best player you’ve never heard of on the women’s tour. The Ukrainian first gained attention in 2012 when she won the WTA $125K Series event in Pune, India. She then jumped nearly 100 spots in the rankings last year, winning her second WTA title in Baku, Azerbaijan, and qualifying for the season-ending Tournament of Champions in Sofia, Bulgaria.
She’s backed up those results so far in 2014, having already beaten four Top 20 players including Australian Open semifinalist Eugenie Bouchard, and she also toppled 2004 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. After reaching the fourth round last month at the Sony Open, Svitolina continued her strong form by upsetting world No. 18 Sloane Stephens on her way to the third round of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C., to become the highest-ranked teenager in the WTA at No. 36.
The Breakdown: An aggressive baseline player who attacks any short ball, Svitolina may have won the junior singles championship at Roland Garros in 2010, but her game is tailor-made for the Emirates Airline US Open Series. Both of her WTA titles have come on outdoor hard courts; she qualified for her first Grand Slam main draw at the 2012 US Open; and she knocked off reigning Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova in the opening round of last year’s Open.
Her experience in the Emirates Airline US Open Series is limited to just one tournament, a first-round loss last year in New Haven. But with the strong results she’s already displayed on hard courts and a ranking high enough to earn direct entry into any Series event she wants this summer, Svitolina is poised to make a big splash this summer.