Mihaela Buzarnescu played her best tennis of the week at the Nature Valley Classic Friday. While Elina Svitolina was completely out of sorts on both sides of her game, the surging Romanian showed tremendous strength and calm that led her to a 6-3, 6-2 straight sets victory on Ann Jones Centre Court at Edgbaston Prior Tennis Club in Birmingham. It was the second straight win over the Ukrainian and her second top-five win this month.
The advantage stood strong with the Romanian who defeated the world number five three weeks ago at the French Open. The early exit Svitolina suffered was a tough one to get over and would surely rattle her nerves having to face Buzarnescu in a second match. While she had the longest run on grass courts over the year, the 23-year-old would have to focus on putting the past behind her and produce her best game to get into the semifinals.
Both showed strong service games to open the first set lasting four games before the Romanian struck first for the break in the fifth. A hold made it a two-game gap that Svitolina didn’t want to keep going. In response on serve, the second seed fired away at the Romanian to secure the seventh. Getting a break against Buzarnescu continued to be difficult as the unseeded powerhouse put together a swift hold of serve in the eighth pressuring the Ukrainian to falter.
The troubles began to bother Svitolina more in the ninth which handed the Romanian free points. An ace saved the game to deuce before responding with risky shots that in the end, didn’t help her contain the AD point. It went into the hands of Buzarnescu who took the set in 38 minutes showing tremendous action on the return game where she won 8 of 11 on the second serve.
The first serve was still in fine form for Buzarnescu who wanted to keep Svitolina from gaining any momentum to make a statement in the set. Svitolina scored a hold in the second in the hopes of building an offence to counter the Romanian. She looked to have some control during rallies in the third but witnessed Buzarnescu calmly return the ball on serve with quick speed that stunned the Ukrainian. She used that tactic to break Svitolina in the fourth creating a lead for herself.
With the Ukrainian well out of sorts, Buzarnescu continued her tear delivering a serve to love in the fifth that made it 4-1. Svitolina didn’t make the call for help as she realized her day was coming to an end. Although she gained a second win on serve in the sixth, she went for a chance to get a break on Buzarnescu in the seventh. Just when it looked possible, the Romanian struck back to force deuce and put together terrific groundstrokes that gave her the victory with one left to go for the match.
She pushed Svitolina into submission in the eighth keeping calm on the break while the forehand slammed the ball that brought the Ukrainian’s tournament to a close after 1 hour and 10 minutes. She scored 20 of 28 on first serve points and 16 of 21 that was enough to show her proactive stance on offence. With her fourth WTA semifinal in play, the 30-year-old would try to make it to the finals in England for the first time facing Petra Kvitova on Saturday.