Ostapenko beats Svitolina in straight sets to reach Miami Open semifinals
Elina Svitolina had issues that she battled only to fall at the Miami Open Wednesday. It was once again the aggressive style of Jelena Ostapenko who battled the Ukrainian into consecutive tiebreakers before winning it 7-6(3) 7-6(5) on Stadium Court at Crandon Park Tennis Center.
It is the first time she has reached the semifinals in what was becoming a remnant factor of her French Open and Wimbledon journeys.
The last time the two met saw the Latvian take down Svitolina in straight sets on the grass courts of Wimbledon. It was the Ukrainian’s highest finish in the grand slam as well as the then 20-year-old who won the French Open prior to SW19.
Both were at a point of high progression in the season’s second premier mandatory. With a semifinal spot on the line, the world number four and five ranked stars would fight to the brink to move on.
Ostapenko proved her worth quickly breaking Svitolina to love in the opening game showing the same signs of her first meeting between the two. The fourth seed answered back with a break of her own holding the Latvian to a single point.
The pace went three games before Ostapenko made a push in the fourth game landing a cross-court winner that nailed the line giving her the first hold of the set. Svitolina followed in the fifth with a hold before calling for the physio to come out.
While she was being tended to, David Taylor came out to speak with the Latvian telling her of her strong handling of the situation while giving her tips to check on the small issues. The match resumed with the 20-year-old very much firing the ball at a quicker pace than her opponent.
Svitolina showed signs of fatigue in her return but battled to break in the sixth levelling the score. The Ukrainian tried getting into the lead but Ostapenko denied her ending another game with a cross-court winner remaining in the lead.
The pace continued to switch as Ostapenko once again held in the eighth with Svitolina still trailing by a game. It led the fourth seed to take a conference with coach Andrew Bettles who told her to risk going after the cross-court winners and beat it back to her.
The sixth seed made some mistakes on serve for the set letting Svitolina back into contention for the second time in a first set. She did well to hold in the 11th game taking her first lead of the match with a two-game winning streak.
Ostapenko faced losing full control of the set which led to Taylor coming back out during the changeover to tell her to commit fully to hitting the ball.
She did so catching Svitolina off on the final point that led them to a critical tiebreak. Svitolina began firing away first but saw the first point come on a net-front lob by the 20-year-old. She had two points to her name but faltered twice levelling the score.
Svitolina landed an ace on serve but it wasn’t enough to continue holding the sixth seed back. She took the next four points shutting down the set in 50 minutes. Despite having 22 unforced errors, the winners came off huge for her to stay fighting through the entirety of the set and up in the match.
When the second set began, it was Svitolina who opened with the break trying to dig in and dictate successfully herself. She had a 2-0 lead before Ostapenko got into the set with a hold in the third game.
Svitolina contained her two-game cushion on the Latvian but the threat was high. Ostapenko came out blanking the fourth seed in the fifth game showing her strength on offence. A flurry of winners got the Latvian back to level terms with the world number four serving to overtake.
Svitolina denied her that chance taking a 4-3 lead before talking with her coach about her stomach pain. Bettles told her that despite her issue that she had there was a big opportunity in front of her and she had to fight like she did on Monday and battle.
It was a hard road for her but after completing her break in the seventh, Ostapenko rallied to consecutive victories sitting a game away from the semifinal. Svitolina served to stay alive in the tenth game doing so with a hold of serve once more.
The break came for the world number four in the 11th game for a second time hoping that what happened in the first set wouldn’t occur again. In the final break, Ostapenko took one final talk with Taylor telling her to play the right way and commit to everything that came to her. It led to another tiebreak as the wind became a factor.
She began service but saw Svitolina land a winner on the short rally. It turned into a conduction of consecutive points painting a winner on the line before beating the Ukrainian. She brought back the well set up winners that opened the gap in scoring.
It was 4-1 for Ostapenko who was on a roll before Svitolina answered back cutting the gap in half. Two points went to the 2017 French Open winner who had four match points to use. Two faltered on errors from her end before a third landed wide.
Nerves were clearly in the mind of Ostapenko but she did it on the fourth attempt ending 1 hour and 47 minutes of tense moments with a final cross-court winner.