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Italian Open 2018: Elina Svitolina pulls off quick comeback on Daria Kasatkina to advance

Rudy Martinez
ANALYST
Feature
305   //    17 May 2018, 17:30 IST

TENNIS-ITALY-WTA
Elina Svitolina

Elina Svitolina pulled off one of the fastest comebacks of her career at the BNL Internazionali D’Italia Thursday. The world number four, who surrendered the first set very easily, played to her abilities in the next two sets against Daria Kasatkina to win 0-6, 6-3, 6-2 at Next Gen Arena on the grounds of Foro Italico in Rome.

The defending champion showed poise to win her fourth straight and second this season against the young Russian to advance to the quarterfinals.

Kasatkina’s power to fight was reinforced in her recent bouts against Garbine Muguruza and Petra Kvitova. While she hadn’t faced anyone of Svitolina’s rank in Rome before yesterday, the 21-year-old would face similar challenges against the defending champion.

It was clear that she got the hint, as she made a quick start to get the early break for a 2-0 lead. Despite serving a double fault in the next game, Kasatkina increased the gap due to unforced errors from Svitolina's end and a slip that caused the Ukrainian some pain in her right palm. The issue only made winning the double break easier for Kasatkina who dictated the proceedings swiftly to go well ahead.

Something was clearly wrong in Svitolina’s game as she went down 0-5 and needed a conference with coach Andrew Bettles, who knew that despite being on the edge of defeat she had to keep her confidence. After the slip the defending champion recorded just one point as she gave up a third consecutive love game to the Russian, ending the set in 21 minutes.

It looked like a complete flop by the 23-year-old, almost with signs of her throwing the match, but the second set was a different scene from the fourth seed.

She put together a break to love to start the second which put the brakes on Kasatkina's rampage. Svitolina double-faulted in the second but held through a short standoff on deuce, taking a 2-0 hold. It was nearly 3-0 as Kasatkina went down 0-30, but the Russian came back to win four straight points and get on the scoreboard. She then leveled the score at two-all by breaking Svitolina.

With control back in the hands of the Russian, Svitolina called for Bettles who told her to counter with the backhand and stay positive. She answered in the sixth by digging in to level back with Kasatkina. A key break in the seventh gave Svitolina some control that soon turned into a 5-3 hold for the world number four. She made a statement in the ninth game by capturing another break to even the match at one set each with one to go.

Svitolina continued with her game winning streak, adding her fifth straight to start the deciding set with a hold of serve. But Kasatkina did everything to stay in contention with the Ukrainian; she forced deuce in the second game, saving break points in the process, before clawing out the hold that halted Svitolina’s dominance.

Kasatkina then made it a second game in a row by breaking Svitolina in a hard battle. But her efforts were doused in the next two games as Svitolina regained a footing to take two straight, testing the Russian each time before taking the lead back.

The Ukrainian then went on another lengthy winning streak that had her on a one-way course to victory, establishing a 5-2 lead over Kasatkina. The 21-year-old served to stay alive in the match - saving two match points in the process - but she couldn’t get a grip on the AD point as she finally capitulated to the skills of Svitolina.

A final error from the Russian ensured that Svitolina completed a well-focused comeback in 1 hour and 36 minutes.

After displaying the ability to overcome a disastrous opening set, Svitolina would be well-prepared for Friday’s match-up against the winner between Angelique Kerber and Maria Sakkari.

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Rudy Martinez
ANALYST
A writer with eight years experience in sportswriting. He specializes in the National Hockey League, WTA Tennis and both summer and winter Olympic sports.
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