Elina Svitolina saw what began as a strong start turn into a disaster at the Western & Southern Open Friday night. Kiki Bertens overcame a 1-4 deficit in the opening set before breaking the fifth seed in the second to take off with the victory in a 6-4, 6-3 win on Grandstand Court at Lindner Family Tennis Center. The victory became the first for the 26-year-old who would make her way into the semifinals for the first time.
The last time they met was at the 2016 WTA Elite Trophy where they went three sets where the Ukrainian took the victory. Neither of them got a lot of time prior to their recent round of 16 matches where Svitolina easily finished hers rolling with the pace while Bertens had to go three against Anett Kontaveit. With the difference in results, the leverage stands in Svitolina’s favor but had to watch out for Bertens’ who remained a dangerous performer winning six of her last seven matches on the hard courts.
Svitolina picked up where she left off from her previous match and dictate her service with a strong statement to her opponent. Bertens answered with a hold that allowed the Ukrainian just a point before capping the victory. After the fifth seed held the third, she tried rushing Bertens in the fourth where it produced break points but not the win. The 26-year-old forced deuce but double-faulted sending it back to status quo. She got into trouble with a second double before erring on the next rally to hand the break to Svitolina.
With the lead in hand, she eased herself to another victory backing up the break with Berten’s returning the ball to hard. She soon called for coach Ramon Sluiter who told her how to remedy the returns she was having trouble with and how to counter with her skills. On serve in the sixth, the world number 17 dug in for the back and forth motion before landing an ace on the “T”. She sealed the deal with a cross-court winner that put her two games down of the 23-year-old.
A break back for the 26-year-old put her a game down getting deep into deuce before launching the key to victory. It led Svitolina to call Andrew Bettles who told her to control the point and attack her movements. Her attempts to do that were difficult but putting the pressure on Bertens was working to keep her hopes for another break alive. Despite the issues, the Dutch star contained the AD point to secure the victory with a mistake that leveled the score at four all.
The table made its complete turn with Bertens getting the ninth game done and dusted for the double break of the fifth seed who was in trouble of letting the set slip away. Serving for the set, the 26-year-old fired off a cross-court ace that let Svitolina know how this was going to conclude. She put the tenth game to rest with her in control to win her fifth game in a row that brought the set to a close in 43 minutes. What was a commanding lead at the start completely disappeared into what can’t be explained from her end but a massive improvement from Berten’s forehand serve that made her 21 unforced errors a thing of the past.
While she was on point to continue, Svitolina made it her mission to end the winning streak of her opponent and lay down a server to start the second set. Bertens matched her in the second that led them to play on the pace set. It was in the fifth where tension and frustrations boiled over for Svitolina and Bertens who were erring when they had the chance to finish off the game. After four breaks and the AD point back in her favor, Bertens put the game to rest to take the lead.
With her ability to win the big points that mattered, the 26-year-old conducted another hold that earned her free points on a struggling Svitolina who lagged behind. It soon led to a 5-2 hold for the world number 17 who was in control of her destiny while the Ukrainian was full of anger and flustered to keep it together. She faced Bertens on serve for the match who was intent on giving nothing away. She gave her opponent two points but scored a winner behind the Ukrainian to reach match point.
The second serve let her down to set up the deuce for the two but the 26-year-old double-faulted to give Svitolina a break. She won it on a lobbed attempt from Bertens that went into the net keeping the set alive. Bertens gave her one chance but not a second as she put it away on her second attempt scoring a winner that Svitolina didn’t go after ending the night in 1 hour and 24 minutes.
With the clear constructive comeback that got her into a strong position for a big title, the Dutch star would await Saturday’s semifinal where she would face Petra Kvitova.