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US Open: Svitolina deals with the pressure to beat Vickery in three setter

Rudy Martinez
219   //    27 Aug 2018, 22:41 IST

2018 US Open - Day 1
2018 US Open - Day 1

Sachia Vickery let her major statement in the match go silent at the US Open Monday. The American who challenged Elina Svitolina in the second set let it all come apart in the third losing mental focus that gave the seventh seed a 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 win on Grandstand Court at the Billy Jean King National Tennis Centre. The Ukrainian’s aggression and focus kept her at a comfortable level to advance into the second round.

This was a first time meeting for the players and one that could spell trouble for the Ukrainian. Vickery’s tenacity hasn’t paid off for her in majors but could be the moment where she has the home advantage. She stood on a three-match losing streak unable to make the main draw of Montreal, Cincinnati, and New Haven. With that being her biggest issue, the American would need a big turnaround to start the final slam of the year. Svitolina was unable to capture back to back titles of the Rogers Cup and fell two spots in the rankings. With only two warmups under her belt, the first few games would determine how ready the world number seven is.

She got into trouble as Vickery shook off the nerves surprisingly fast to earn a breakpoint on Svitolina. The Ukrainian saved three straight but double faulted giving Vickery the win. She built a hold of serve to make it 2-0 for herself as the errors were racking up for the seventh seed. She double-faulted a second time in the third that resulted in her trailing early. An ace at 30 all helped her get the lead back before capturing her first service hold of the match. Playing against the deep forehand style of Vickery continued to trouble the Ukrainian who fought to level the fourth with all she had. After the third break on deuce, the seventh seed succeeded in bringing herself level with the American but knew it was going to be a long road ahead.

She gained a third straight against Vickery showing her focus was in check which again resulted in her picking up a break to achieve four in a row. With all the elements coming to formation for the seventh seed, Svitolina added aggression on serve in the seventh smashing a shot to end a short rally. It saw the 23-year-old American rack up numerous errors from her end that soon saw herself in danger of losing the set.

Svitolina kept the pressure high on her opponent as her chance to go for the set in the eighth. Despite having a second double fault, Vickery kept her service on the lock to secure a third win and keep the hope alive. She got ahead on Svitolina’s service in the ninth fooling her opponent with back to back winners. The tables turned as she hit two into the net forcing deuce for the world number seven who found set point on another net error. She needed a second attempt that came on Vickery’s long ball that brought a close to 37 minutes. She finished with her first serve scoring 73 per cent with seven winners total. Despite having 14 errors, the edge to hold her offense was enough to be out front feeling comfortable.

That soon disappeared after Vickery captured her opening service game to start the set. The American took that momentum from a strong game that resulted in her having a 3-0 lead. Svitolina had yet to score anything from her second serve and had a dismal return game winning on 3 of 11. A hold for the seventh seed came to fruition in the fourth getting on the board but still down two games. Vickery gained back her three-game lead keeping the set in her control.

Svitolina was on the edge but not ready to throw in the towel of the set trying desperately to come back. On serve in the fifth, the Ukrainian attempted to bring her aggression together and win that way but was again fooled at the baseline when Vickery went for a net-front lob before she herself sent the ball into the net giving a 5-1 lead to the Floridian.

Vickery could not be beaten out of giving up the set as she secured her chance for a third earning three set points scoring an ace to end 26 minutes. The American had improved the offense scoring 83 per cent from the first and 78 from the second serve. Svitolina had disappeared with very little answers and 11 unforced errors. She left the court to regroup before trying to keep herself in the tournament against a forceful adversary.

She delivered with a forceful hold before consolidating it with a break by adding some crosscourt shots that Vickery couldn’t get to. With a grip on the set, she went for another hold but let up with some errors that got Vickery to deuce. She blew her one chance to counter before a solid winner made it 3-0 for the seventh seed. The American had very little to defend against as it was soon a runaway for the Ukrainian who connected with her forehand to beat down Vickery.

Svitolina remained in cruise control gaining a third straight service hold that had the American serving to avoid the bagel. With a big fight to deuce, Vickery got the win that got her on the board but soon faced Svitolina who had yet to drop the serve in the set. Despite some trouble in the seventh, the world number seven laid down a line drive that earned her match point. Svitolina put it away with an ace that got her a good win in 1 hour and 32 minutes.

“It was good tennis from both of us,” Svitolina said during her on-court interview. “I think she came back on top in the second set and I was just trying to react very quickly and come back fresh for the third set and I think this was the key.” It was the first time Svitolina played a match to open a grand slam but clearly felt the pressure on the court. “It’s a part of tennis and playing a grand slam and I really enjoying playing under pressure and tough matches like this always give you confidence.”

With one big challenge out of the way, more would be in store as she’ll face the winner between Agnieszka Radwanska and Tatiana Maria on Wednesday.

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Rudy Martinez
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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