Elina Svitolina continued with another dominating performance at the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships, Thursday night. The two-time defending champion had all the answers to take it to Carla Suarez-Navarro winning in straight sets 6-2, 6-3 on center court at the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Center. It ended a two-match losing streak to her opponent keeping her title defense alive and well.
The two faced off in their eighth match with Suarez-Navarro holding the lead 4-3. She took their last two with wins at Indian Wells and with the home advantage at Madrid. Her signature style of playing the drop shot with her opponent behind the baseline has been successful against the Ukrainian who knows the target is big as she vied for the three-peat in the tournament. She has two wins against her on hard courts making this one very important to win and be the dominant factor standing as the sixth seed.
They began the set with holds of serve through four with each gaining their chance to break but failed to get an early leverage in the set. After five, Svitolina put more aggression against Suarez-Navarro’s service game to force deuce. After four breaks and two AD point attempts, the Ukrainian got the key break to open the gap on the Spaniard. A serve to love from Svitolina made it clear that she had the 26-year-old right where she wanted to. Playing for the set in the eighth, the 24-year-old was at the ball quickly to get ahead of Suarez-Navarro who erred late to hand the set over in 34 minutes. She had 18 total in the set which was too much to have against the world number six.
In a surprise start to the second set, the Spaniard managed to gain a break point chance and secure it for her first against the Ukrainian. Svitolina tried for a break back but Suarez-Navarro had better court positioning to secure a lead to her name. Making sure she didn’t fall too far back; the sixth seed held the third before converting a break in the fourth for a two-all tie. Just when it looked like Svitolina had a third straight in hand, she lost every game point to be forced to deuce. The errors got in the way while Suarez-Navarro improved on the ball strikes to break back.
The Ukrainian recorded the third straight break of the set that got her back on track. She then delivered a strong message to the Spaniard of her intention to give up very little with the 4-3 hold. Suarez-Navarro looked defeated during her chat with coach Marc Casabó who tried to keep her focused but it was too much to overcome. Svitolina went on to break her for a third time in the set to serve for the match in the ninth. The 24-year-old had all the momentum running her way and gained three match points. Every one of them got away with two into the net and one long of the baseline that suddenly gave Suarez-Navarro life.
She suffered a bad forehand into the net that set up a fourth attempt for the Ukrainian coming on a crosscourt shot that Suarez-Navarro froze at ending the match after 1 hour and 18 minutes.
“I was very happy with the way I played today,” said Svitolina to Annabel Croft after the match. “There were some really amazing rallies where I ran really good and was very happy that I could finish in two really tough sets.”
With two matches to go in order to retain the title for a third consecutive year, Svitolina will go at it against Belinda Bencic who has been taking out some of the best players in the tournament. It would be a true battle on whether she could quench the thirst of the 21-year-old in Friday’s semifinal.