A close call of a sudden retirement, a long rain delay, and a comeback at the Rogers Cup summed up the match between the two former title winners Thursday. In the end, it was Elina Svitolina who didn’t let the pause in competition or a twisted left ankle get in the way of defeating Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-4 on National Bank Grandstand Court at the Aviva Tennis Centre.
It’s the clash of two former champions in Toronto and with their third meeting the 2017 champion hoped to change the tide of success. In their last two bouts that went three sets, Bencic rallied or edged Svitolina that brought her a title and advancement in the other. The two have put together long rallies in the past and would challenge one another on their service games to find control.
The opening rally lasted more than 10 shots with Svitolina winning the point on a line drive. She and Bencic fought to deuce where another break point chance gave her the early lead. She served up three quick points on serve in the second but at 40-30 she took a stumble for the return and twisted her ankle. Svitolina managed to get up but needed the physio at once. Play stooped for ten minutes while the Ukrainian had left her ankle treated and tapped up.
Moving on it didn’t seem to bother her but while Bencic kept warm during the timeout, she pounced as soon as play resumed with a serve to love in the third. The sixth seed matched her opponent’s offense and caught another break for a 4-1 stand. The clouds over the court began to darken quickly during the sixth and during the sixth point, the rain began to fall heavily suspending play.
After a 1 hour and 25 minute delay, play resumed in the seventh with the break going to Svitolina on a Bencic drive going long. With a shot to serve for the set, the Ukrainian earned free points on the Swiss star’s errors but watched her climb back to go for a break. Svitolina forced deuce instead and gained an AD point but failed to answer a hard drive return from the 22-year-old. The sixth seed gained a second chance for set point and won it on a forehand error from the Swiss ending 42 minutes.
The second saw Bencic hold to begin the second set but her forehand errors continued to rattle her. Svitolina came out with a better offense but won points on Bencic’s struggling returns. The third became the longest of the match as the forehand opened the door for Svitolina to get to deuce. While she keyed in to fight for the AD point, the 11th seed became frustrated with the situation. The Ukrainian knew the current status of the match and fired off a second love service to open the gap.
It was turning to one way roads for the world number seven gaining a 4-1 lead on Bencic who called for the physio to deal with a blister on her foot. Despite having it treated, the gap was not easy to recover from as the Ukrainian sat two games from the match. She somehow pulled off a break of Svitolina to earn her shot at serving to close the gap more. The Ukrainian fought for the break through every point with Bencic fighting to deny her each time. The forehand again caused problems for the 11th seed who was on the verge of losing her emotions even after losing the serve.
She faced the end with Svitolina getting some words of positivity from coach Andrew Bettles before serving out the eighth for a spot in the round of 16. She had three match points to work with but a wide return and a solid one from Bencic left only one to go for the world number seven. Bencic caught the line to force deuce and scored another to gain a break shot. A bad crosscourt shot for Svitolina went into the net letting her first chance slip away.
Bencic rallied into a lengthy points streak putting together eight straight before letting one get away on a double fault. She didn’t let it get away from her to secure the win and be a game down with the Ukrainian under pressure to get it done. She did indeed feel it as troubles on the forehand caused her to get emotional on missed opportunities. On the only break of the game and Svitolina’s fifth attempt, she got it on a wide return from Bencic that ended a hard-fought 1 hour and 34 minute match.
With a rough finish for the sixth seed, getting a better outcome against Bencic earned her an opportunity to step closer for a chance at the title. Standing in her way was Sofia Kenin who she had never faced before but would clash within a round of 16 match, Friday.Published 09 Aug 2019, 02:06 IST