Elina Svitolina had a tough time finding ways of dictating the match but got through to the round of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open Sunday night. Daria Gavrilova was relentless but not strong enough to overtake the Ukrainian who won 7-5, 6-4 on Stadium Two at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. It was the fifth consecutive time that the world number six beat the Australian and would try to get further than ever in the California desert.
The Ukrainian’s late-night victory against Sofia Kenin that nearly got out of her hands was a wakeup call to strengthen up her game as she faced the Australian for the second time in two years at Indian Wells. She allowed just three games to Gavrilova who had nothing to show against the world number three at the time.
Svitolina led the series 5-3 with the hope that she could make a serious push in the desert and go deep into the second week. The 25-year-old took down Mihaela Buzarnsecu in straight sets where the Romanian only got four against her. With that becoming Gavrilova’s best way to start the tournament, getting the edge on the world number six would also prove to be advantageous.
She got ahead of Svitolina to earn the opening break of the match but holding her serve in the second was not to be. The sixth seed opened a 40-15 lead but let two break points fade away to bring Gavrilova to deuce. Attaining the AD point was a breeze for the Ukrainian who scored the win on a crosscourt winner. Getting back on track, Svitolina took the third with a strong offense that caught Gavrilova off guard to clinch her first hold of the set.
It was a three-game winning streak for the 24-year-old who had great placement on the court to force the Australian to run around for the tough returns. Gavrilova didn’t want the margin to get any wider and secured the hold in the fifth. She called for the trainer where some eye drops were necessary for the dry conditions. Play resumed with the 25-year-old vying for a tie in the sixth but miscues got her behind to hand the sixth seed the two-game gap.
She managed to break back to get back within reach but took a chat with coach Nicole Pratt who told Gavrilova that most things were good and that play with discipline and keep working her forehand. Svitolina also called down coach Andrew Bettles who asked her about the issue with her leg and to drive up the serve and keep tough on her. It was to remain an uphill battle for the Ukrainian as she trailed 5-4 with her serve under attack the last three times.
She somehow kept the set from ending forcing deuce where it took a second chance on the AD point to get the break and force Gavrilova to more tennis. She got the serve to cooperate in the 11th where a hold put the Australian under pressure to follow suit and force a tiebreak. Svitolina got the body shots in during the returns that beat Gavrilova twice before an error got ended the shutout.
A bad forehand gave the sixth seed two set points where a nine-shot rally ended with a lob going long to end the set in 56 minutes. The serve percentages from both players were nowhere near good for either one to dictate the match but just enough effort from the Ukrainian got her across the line.
Knowing that a lot of improvements had to come in the second stanza, Gavrilova pulled off a break to love to set the bar high. She built together a short lead but let a trick lob fall short that luckily didn’t cost her. Line winners and net-front presence helped her to stay ahead with a 2-0 lead. Svitolina recovered the deficit but with the same difficulty seen in the first set. A big hold in the fifth resulted in Gavrilova calling down Pratt who gave her some constructive ideas on how to use her strengths to regain control.
She did just that to even back up through six but knew that she would trail Svitolina who held the seventh. During the break, she called down Bettles who gave her ideas on how to act when Gavrilova brings the return and use the backhand to trick her up. His plea to find more intensity, be positive and play every point helped her get the edge in the eighth and take a 5-3 lead for a serve of the match.
Gavrilova showed that she was not going down and proved it with crosscourt drives and a lob from her doubles experience that Svitolina failed to get to. It turned the tables for the Aussie to serve for the continuation of the set. She was silenced through three points that had Svitolina with match point attempts. The 25-year-old saved two but a third was not meant to be as she fired a crosscourt to finish off Gavrilova in 1 hour and 46 minutes.
“It was a tough one today,” Svitolina said during her on-court interview,
I know Daria from eight years old and we always played tough battles from the young age. That’s why I was always expecting a tough one and, in the end, I could finish in two sets.
Svitolina finished the night with the first serve at 60 percent with 59 percent of points won from the first and her return game above 50 percent. With the edge on offense coming up big for her, she’ll try to make Tuesday facing the winner between Jennifer Brady and Ashleigh Barty.Published 11 Mar 2019, 09:15 IST