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Wimbledon: Maria ousts Svitolina with consistent strength

Rudy Martinez
134   //    03 Jul 2018, 03:10 IST

Wimbledon 2018 - Day One - The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Wimbledon 2018 - Day One - The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club

Elina Svitolina didn’t have the blocks in place to compete at the championships at Wimbledon Monday evening. The world number five couldn’t dig in against Tatiana Maria who ran away with the final set winning 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-1 on Court Two at the All England Tennis Club. It was the first time Svitolina blew an opening round match as a seeded player in a major.

This was the fifth match between the two and the first to come on grass. Since their ITF days, the two split wins on one another that also included Svitolina’s recent win against her in Beijing two years ago. With a tough upset at Birmingham in the quarterfinals, the world number five would try to make another stab at improving her grass court game. Maria was well tuned to work through the tournament winning the Mallorca Open back on June 24. With some due time on record, the German would try to go at it and force Svitolina into a spot.

She broke the Ukrainian with a swift opening game before reaching two game points on serve in the second. She held back Svitolina’s attempt to get on pace with big forehand returns. The fifth seed made an effort to not fall three games down and brought it together to secure her first win. It was the last she’d see for a while as Maria took control once again winning three straight against Svitolina to play to go a setup.

The 23-year-old held to stay alive in the set before calling the trainer to deal with a blister on her right foot. When she returned to action after the medical timeout, she had a fight on her hands for a break that saw Maria tugging back to maintain serve. Svitolina wasn’t ready for the set to end as she fought through a few breaks before winning the eighth. An important hold for the world number five allowed her to be back in touch with Maria hoping to turn the set to her control.

She successfully pulled off the comeback winning her fifth straight on a break of Maria serving the 11th for the lead. The Ukrainian’s response had risen slowly through her march back and responded verbally when she saved another set point from the German putting down a winner for a sixth straight game. Of the last 20 points won, Svitolina nailed 16 of them showing her determination to conduct things on her terms.

Maria wasn’t ready to let everything slip out of her hands as she held the 12th to force Svitolina into a tiebreak. She watched the Ukrainian get two points right away but took over to run the next few points her way. She got another set point chance but let Svitolina take a game before she slammed the door shut in the set that lasted 57 minutes. While Maria had a well-oiled service game that never let her down, Svitolina’s underperformed winning 64 percent of the 58 percent she carried along. The dozen and a half errors made also were a problem that took her off the court to clear her head and take care of business.

When the second got underway, Maria opened the scoring with Svitolina taking the next two by force. With the break in hand, the 23-year-old went for the hold in the fourth but saw Maria break back for a two-all score. A hold in the fifth not only gave her the lead but continued to break down Svitolina’s energy and confidence to compete. The Ukrainian was at her core and after suffering another loss, she found new life in her game that resulted in a two-game winning streak. The lead was thanks to Maria’s critical double fault on serve that had her trailing the fifth seed.

Svitolina inched out to two games searching for a shot at a third set with the pace in her favour. Mistakes on serve allowed Maria a game-winner on serve to go for a break and keep the set going. Svitolina was in position to serve for the set and wasted nothing to achieve her mission to win after 45 minutes of play.

Maria had other ideas on how to end the match and began with a big 3-0 lead tearing away at the Ukrainian who was struggling once again. Svitolina had moments where she landed great shots across court but the consistency was missing throughout. It led her to a near shutout as Maria had five games straight to her game. The Ukrainian did everything to stay in it and put down a serve to love in the sixth avoiding an embarrassing bagel.

It was the last move she made on the court as Maria coasted to victory getting a big win against the fifth who fell out after two hours and nine minutes. Both sides of her service game were well under the average she sets on grass with just 14 points of 39 from the second serve. The seven double faults on the day only gave her German opponent the momentum to get through a lengthy match. She will prepare for Wednesday’s second round against French star Kristina Mladenovic who also had a three-set win on the day.

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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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