BNP Paribas Open 2019: Svitolina avoids upset with late surge win over Kenin
Elina Svitolina had to fight for her life to advance at the BNP Paribas Open late Friday night. A major fight from American Sofia Kenin nearly took her out but went the distance to win 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 on Stadium Two at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. It was a struggle to battle against the cold windy conditions and a player with a lot of speed and response.
This was an important moment for the young American who had big wins under her belt this season. With so many upsets taking place, Kenin gave herself a real shot at knocking out one of the best. Despite going three sets against Yafan Wang, the 20-year-old held on to her tenacity and bested her Chinese counterpart to move along in her second appearance in the tournament. The Ukrainian hasn’t been cut from the second round in five years and would do whatever it took to make sure she didn’t fall behind under any circumstances.
She fell behind with Kenin taking a 2-0 run and a break in hand. She denied a third for the American taking the break on deuce to end the short shutout. A key hold levelled the score through four but getting on track with the momentum behind her was still difficult. Kenin broke Svitolina in the fifth before consolidating a 4-2 hold in the sixth. Kenin continued to dictate the set getting another hold that soon had the Ukrainian calling down Andrew Bettles for a huddle. The Brit told her to play every point, hit deeper and move for the returns to get back into the set.
She earned a hold in the eighth to contain the American for a moment. When the 20-year-old got the ball to serve in the ninth, she achieved two set points to take it on a long return from Svitolina ending 33 minutes. The American won 80 percent of points on the first serve that did damage on Svitolina’s offense where she made 10 of 18 from the first and three of eight from the second serve. With a lot of improvements to be made, the world number six knew that a push for control had to come fast.
She held to begin the second set but wasn’t in the same gear as her younger opponent who was playing faster and achieved a serve to love in the second. Svitolina somehow stayed close with Kenin gaining the lead in the fifth to show her will to take control and force a third into play. The goal was still far away as Kenin made sure that nothing small was given away to hand Svitolina opportunities.
Control of the seventh was a critical moment for the two as they went to deuce with no intention of letting go. Point after point went by with neither giving in to let go of a chance. After six breaks and ten minutes of play, a return that went slightly long by Kenin gave Svitolina the win. Both called for their coaches with each of them telling their players to stay positive.
With the American trailing, Svitolina put pressure with aggressive forehand returns but let up with mistakes that forced deuce for Kenin. She stayed focused long enough to play three breaks which resulted in a hold at 4-4. The world number six earned a key hold of serve in the ninth that put Kenin under pressure to hold on to her straight sets chance. She did so in the tenth to force the set onward with the first serve doing work at the right time.
While it was a great response, the 20-year-old was still under pressure to act accordingly as Svitolina did in the 11th taking full control of her serve. Despite some risky shots made on serve that forced her to deuce, she got Svitolina to freeze up and watch winners go down to give Kenin the win and a tiebreak in play.
They stayed even through six points until Svitolina gained ground to go up a pair. She kept that margin between herself and Kenin before the seventh point was won on the second break point chance that ended one hour and five minutes and a huge decider. She took a conference with coach Andrew Bettles who told her to keep believing and adjust going forward. Svitolina voiced her concerns and kept her composed and focused to try and bring a win out of it.
After a hold from Kenin in the third, Svitolina went on the offensive and tallied a hold in the second to level the score. With the late hours and a loss of control for the young American, Svitolina used her tactics to gain a break and not look back. The sixth seed opened the gap to 4-1 gaining a double break in the fifth that put her closer to a strong finish. Kenin was able to bring Svitolina’s winning streak to a halt putting pressure on her for the break.
A hold in the seventh brought the margin down to a game for the Ukrainian as Kenin once again found her serve to be strong enough to stay alive. Svitolina took a coaching call with Bettles who told her to keep the intensity as high as she could to get her across the finish line on her terms. She got the 5-3 lead with mistakes from Kenin being just enough to go for the match.
Kenin served to try and continue her quest for an upset but forehand errors were racking up. She stretched out to make a good winner against Svitolina but got one back to head to deuce. The 20-year-old found a way to hold on in her service game that put the pressure back on the Ukrainian to end it or go the full distance. The 24-year-old put together one final strike that came in the shape of three match points to put the youngster away with a line drive winner completing a 2 hour and 20-minute battle.
“It was a very tough battle,” Svitolina said while wrapped up in a blanket after the match. “Sofia is playing great tennis and I’m sure we’ll see many more matches with her in the future.” “I had to really raise my level and the conditions made me adapt quickly but I always try to think that we're dealing with the same conditions and just try to focus to what I had to do on the court but I was fighting and got through it.”
For a second consecutive time in the California desert, Svitolina will face Daria Gavrilova in a third round Sunday showdown for a spot in the round of 16.