March 20, 2023

Open Court


Exclusive: Elina Svitolina’s return to play imminent

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Elina Svitolina isn’t in the desert with husband Gaël Monfils, as he returns to action for the first time since he retired in the second round of the National Bank Open in Montreal last August.

But we’re hearing that he’s not the only one in the Svitolina-Monfils household whose return is imminent.

Svitolina, whose daughter Skaï was born Oct. 15, plans to return as early as next month for the clay-court season. Perhaps even as early as Charleston.

That’s awfully soon, considering everything the 28-year-old has been up to.

Svitolina’s last match came nearly a year ago, in her opener against Heather Watson in Miami. A year ago here at Indian Wells, she lost her opener to British qualifier Harriet Dart. (She was, of course, a little-bittle bit pregnant already by then).

She’s a former world No. 3, with 16 WTA Tour titles, including two at the Italian Open in Rome.

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Svitolina’s pregnancy and the early days of motherhood have coincided with the Russian invasion of her Ukraine homeland, just over a year ago.

Beyond all that goes with becoming a new mother – a full-time job in itself – Svitolina has invested heart and soul into raising awareness and funds for her compatriots fighting the war at home.

Any public profile she has had over the last year as been fully developed around that.

But we’re told she has been working with Raemon Sluiter, the 44-year-old Dutch former player who had great coaching success with countrywoman Kiki Bertens.

Svitolina takes a break during a rather relaxed practice in Miami in 2022 to watch husband Gaël Monfils hit a few balls on the next court. Our spidey senses were tingling that day that there might be … some news. And so it turned out to be.

It’s a lot. Svitolina is superwoman; she can do it all.

Being back on Tour and in the public eye will help her raise even more awareness about the situation in Ukraine, which shows no signs of improving any time soon.

Svitolina was ranked just inside the top 20 when she last played; that’s a protected ranking that should get her in anywhere she wants to play.

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