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WTA Finals 2018: Elina Svitolina clinches spot in semi-finals with win over Caroline Wozniacki 

  • Svitolina goes 3-0 in group play for the first time in WTA Finals
Rudy Martinez
ANALYST
News
Modified 25 Oct 2018, 21:10 IST
Elina Svitolina
Elina Svitolina

Elina Svitolina played a tremendous match of tennis that secured her place in the BNP Paribas WTA Finals semi-finals on Thursday night. The Ukrainian had to fight hard in the second set, starting late against Caroline Wozniacki, who gave it her all but came up short in her attempt to secure a straight-sets win that would have kept her title defense going.  In the end, the Ukrainian won the match 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 on centre court at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, going 3-0 in group play. 

This was the fifth meeting between the two and the second to occur at the season finale. The defending champion won their 2017 meeting in Singapore, earning a shutout of the Ukrainian, which was her first ever win over Svitolina after losing three straight.

The Dane needed to keep her down entirely as Karolina Pliskova took the first semi-final spot earlier in the day, leaving one left for the group. The sixth seeded Svitolina was only required to win a set in the match, and it simply wouldn't matter whether she won or lost. No player had gone 3-0 in group play since 2016, giving the 24-year-old a chance to add her name to a short list. With their season on the line to continue playing, both players needed to give it their all to determine who would progress.

A strange moment occurred during the warmup as Wozniacki called for another racket to stall Svitolina for a moment. She was left with no choice to play on as Svitolina won the chance to serve and begin her revenge for how last season ended. She gave up points on errors, handing Wozniacki a break point chance but rallied back to force the Dane to err herself. Landing an ace on the AD point gave the sixth seed a much-needed hold to stay ahead of the world number two.

She fought to defend her lead but the actions of Wozniacki were alive and well as she battled through a 23-shot rally before securing the hold of serve. Svitolina still couldn’t bring the serve together right away as she dealt out three unforced errors, falling behind on the score. On an opportunity to begin a comeback, the 24-year-old messed up on an easy smash that handed Wozniacki the all-important break.

The sixth seed tried to stay in the fourth by playing every possible point she could to keep the Dane within reach. An error brought it to a close, giving Wozniacki a 3-1 lead with Svitolina needing a solid hold. Errors from the 28-year-old were all that helped Svitolina as the rhythm stayed with the second seed. A call for coach Andrew Bettles arrived for the Ukrainian who told her to work the point and step up on her own shots to dictate the rallies.

Wozniacki securing the sixth was key to prevent Svitolina, who still tried to battle to level the score. She made sure to keep the margin at one game with a lot of movements to answer the second seed and hold serve in the seventh. She went all-in in the eighth, where a hold was absolutely necessary. Fighting back from a short deficit and Wozniacki being upset about the timing of her opponent’s grunts helped the Ukrainian take control and level the set at four apiece.

An important hold for Svitolina came to give her the lead for the first time with the chance to clinch her spot in the semi-finals, but she needed to break Wozniacki too. The Dane denied her as the first serve stayed tight and forced Svitolina back again.

Every point counted as they went to extra frames with Wozniacki taking the lead in the 11th, breaking her opponent’s serve and needing one more to get an edge on the Ukrainian. Her aggression put pressure on Svitolina, who fell to an ace by the Dane, ending the set in 57 minutes. They both had the same percentage on the first serve, but Wozniacki was just a little better on winning points from it and committed less errors.

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A hold for Svitolina came at a critical moment where she had to hold off Wozniacki at every point in order to secure her way into Saturday’s semi-final. The second seed held and consolidated her victory with a break to lead 2-1.

Svitolina was again under pressure as she continued to struggle for consistency. She managed to break Wozniacki back in the fourth, levelling the score. The breaks continued with Svitolina getting the lead again in the fifth. During the break, the second seed called down her coach and father to express her frustrations and he tried to keep her emotions in check while telling her how to adjust.

She did indeed do that, adding more aggression and focus to end the breaks of serve and rattle Svitolina in the sixth. The Ukrainian continued to find ways of holding Wozniacki back and did it before calling Bettles down to get encouragement.

Getting the break was still difficult as Wozniacki gaining back momentum to level at four all. With opportunities to keep her hopes alive, Svitolina played every point in the ninth like they were her last. With the hold, it gave the 24-year-old a chance to put serious pressure on the Dane to hold or find her title defense finished.

She got to 40-0 as Svitolina hit balls back into the net but erred during her comeback to send the set to the brink. The Ukrainian’s final chance to hold on serve arrived in the 11th as she showed little struggle but held off the world number two to sit with the lead.

Wozniacki forced Svitolina to make an error to start the 12th but committed two straight herself. The Dane’s return put her in trouble but she saved one set point to stay alive. With one to go, Svitolina got into a great rally but lost focus, putting too much on the ball that landed long, forcing deuce for the second seed.

A second straight ball going long gave Wozniacki the AD but she returned wide, giving Svitolina another chance. She gained a third set point after scoring a great crosscourt winner but another error into the net erased that recent success.

The nerves were higher than ever for the two as everything rode on the game. As Wozniacki struggled on the first serve, she pulled out a trick during the rally that won her another opportunity. On the fifth break point and fourth set point, Svitolina got it locked up in 58 minutes with a ball landing long on her side that clinched her place in the semi-final.

While there was still a set to play, it left both players with the decision on how to play things out with one going home and the other continuing her quest for a title. The third began with Svitolina holding serve followed by Wozniacki trying to finish strong. They went to seven straight before the 24-year-old gained a break in the eighth to play for the set.

She couldn’t do it on serve in the ninth, giving the Dane three break points. Svitolina saved one following it up with a winner and a forehand error from the second seed that got her to deuce. It took her three breaks to get the job done in 2 hours and 35 minutes.

“It was an amazing match and a tough fight,” Svitolina said to Andrew Krasny after the match. “She always brings the best out of you and you really have to push yourself.”

She became the leader of her group to stand as the favourite going into Saturday’s semi-final. While she’ll await who she faces next, the 24-year-old who looked for a great conclusion to the 2018 season, would prepare for the biggest moment of her career.

Published 25 Oct 2018, 21:10 IST
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