Elina Svitolina charged to a strong victory at the Rogers Cup in Montreal Friday night. The 2017 champion fought back Elise Mertens in the opening set before rolling to a lead in the second to win 7-5, 6-3 on Court Central at IGA Stadium. What started out as a 4-0 run from the Belgian into a complete turnaround for the world number five who found her stride at the right time.
The two met at the Australian Open where the Belgian got the start she wanted winning at Hobart followed by a run that included defeating the Ukrainian in the quarterfinals of the year's first major. Since then, Mertens has been on a tear showing her strengths on the hard court going far in San Jose recently. Svitolina continued her journey to try for back to back titles at the Rogers Cup with a swift win over Johanna Konta who couldn’t get up to speed after her first match Thursday. With this being her biggest challenge, the world number five would try to keep her run alive against a challenging opponent.
It proved difficult right away as the 23-year-old's 40-0 run turned into a five-point run for Mertens who swiped the opening game away. Svitolina tried paying her 22-year-old opponent back with a force of deuce but failed to secure the AD point in the second. Unable to get her offense going, the defending champion struggled in her second try to serve and instead handed Mertens a double break for a 3-0 lead. It sent Andrew Bettles out there to tell Svitolina to counter the pace of the Belgian and dictate.
The fourth was her chance but Mertens still found a way to make her run around to return the ball and end up on the wrong end of the score. She watched as the Belgian comfortably won her fourth in a row with an error landing wide. A bit of lucky began to fall on the lap of Svitolina with her opponent making some easy errors to give her a second chance at a serve to love. She double-faulted a third time killing off that chance but held on to win it.
She earned a break getting a sudden positive start to her all-around form that resulted in a three-game winning streak getting close to coming back fully. Dieter Kindlmann got called out for Mertens who helped her try to remedy the situation of losing all ground made from the start. Svitolina achieved the full come back breaking the 22-year-old but couldn’t hold the serve in the ninth. Mertens went on to gain the lead back and attempt to serve out the set but was denied as the Ukrainian forced her way to a five all deadlock to have a chance at taking the set herself.
She took the 11th on an important hold of serve that put Mertens under pressure to match the 23-year-old. She instead fell behind with some errors that gave Svitolina the set win in 48 minutes. The unforced errors were the major downfall of Mertens who had 16 of them with most coming at the late stages of the set. Her serve at 51 per cent also played a role in her winning half of points on the first serve and 5 of 17 from the second. “Elise was really on fire,” Svitolina said about Mertens in the first set. “She was striking everything and everything was going in and I was struggling and just tried to take one point at a time.”
The Ukrainian tried to roll over her success from the end of the previous set into the second but saw Mertens fighting for a break. They went to deuce but it was a secured win for the defending champion who held to set the bar. Gaining a foothold was important for the 22-year-old who struggled with a fourth double fault but got out of a jam with a pair of shots that ended with a winning smash.
They kept on serve through five with Svitolina staying out front before each player took a conference on the court. Kindlmann asked Mertens to minimize the shots to the body and some other adjustments while Bettles told the Ukrainian to keep the level up but maintain composure. She did just that after the sixth taking her service game before breaking Mertens for the important 5-3 lead. In what was becoming a major feat, Svitolina reached three match points to get it with one left clinching the victory in 1 hour 25 minutes.
“It was a really tough match,” Svitolina said during her on-court interview. She would soon find herself facing another difficult match going against US Open defending champion Sloane Stephen’s in the semifinals on Saturday.