Tennis-Ukraine's Svitolina sets sight on Tokyo podium

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TOKYO (Reuters) - An upset win over Serena Williams at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games proved to be a breakthrough moment for Elina Svitolina's tennis career but the Ukrainian wants to go a step further in Tokyo and improve her Olympic credentials with a podium finish.

Svitolina was aged 21 and ranked 20th in the world when she ousted American great Williams in the third round of the women's singles in Rio but she failed to build on her landmark win by falling in the quarter-finals to Czech Petra Kvitova.

During the season following the Olympics she won five titles on the WTA Tour to climb to a career-high ranking of third and in 2018 won the season-ending WTA Finals - considered only below the four Grand Slams in status.

"The goal, for me, is to get that Olympic medal," the newly-wed Svitolina told ITFWorld magazine. "I'll do my best to prepare well and be ready.

"For my country, Olympics is a big thing. They really support you unbelievably when the athletes are competing in the Olympics, so it's very special for Ukraine and I definitely will do my best to prepare to get that medal."

Rio was an unforgettable experience for Svitolina and seeing top athletes from different sports up close competing for glory inspired her.

The current world number six got married to France's former No.6 Gael Monfils on Friday and there could be more happy memories in the next fortnight for Svitolina when she dons Ukraine's colours and competes at the Ariake Tennis Park.

"It is very special when I play for my country," she said. "It doesn't matter if I play Billie Jean King Cup or the Olympics, it is something extra and you find this edge to find more and play better.

"But the Olympics is always an important event and I am extremely proud to represent Ukraine. When it's Olympic year, I look forward to that and try to prepare the best as I can.

"I want to be remembered as a fighter for my country. I want to win everything that I play and I always try to do my best and be at my best for Ukraine."

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Christian Radnedge)

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