A tough match ended with Elina Svitolina getting a second victory under her belt at the WTA Finals 2018 late on Tuesday. The world number seven nearly secured her place in the final four but gave in just enough against Karolina Pliskova to beat her in three sets 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 on centre court at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. While she gained a third straight WTA win over Pliskova and her second straight at this event, the 24-year-old would have to save some for the next bout.
In Svitolina’s second run at the Finals, she started things with a win against Petra Kvitova who struggled in the first set to give the Ukrainian time to control. With the start that she wanted, she was looking to add a third straight WTA win over the Czech and second this year, as they were meeting for the first time in nine months. The seventh seed managed to get a hold over Wozniacki to stand 1-0 in the group stage. A win for either of them would surely clinch their spot from the group to advance forward.
Both opened with strong service games that soon led them to a fight for control in the third. Svitolina forced deuce on serve where she continued to fight Pliskova, who had three chances for the break. The Ukrainian killed off each one of them but double-faulted at the wrong time. She dug in to save six break points but couldn’t lock down the AD points. The game spanned over 13 minutes, eight breaks and 26 points, before the 24-year-old secured the hold.
The Ukrainian went for a break chance but watched the Czech force deuce. After saving a second break point, the 26-year-old laid down an ace to secure the hold and keep even with Svitolina. The sixth seed continued to step out ahead before she changed things up for herself in the shape of a scoring streak.
Svitolina took the sixth with a complete break to love of Pliskova. She made it nine straight before the Czech answered on a great volley in the seventh. It was all she would accomplish in the game as the world number seven captured another hold to stand at 5-2.
Pliskova served to stay in the set and held with a serve to love, showing her willingness to stay in it. Svitolina didn’t feel the same way as she wanted the set to be done. Having to overcome a 0-30 start, the sixth seed forced deuce but was again fighting off Pliskova’s break point opportunities.
She took care of the opposition getting a set point where she shut it down after 46 minutes, sending Pliskova back to her bench slamming her racket down. On a coaching call, Rennae Stubbs came down to tell the Czech to forget about the set and be aggressive and give herself space between the forehand and the racket.
She started the second with a good dictation of serving the ball well against the 24-year-old. Svitolina still was the better of the two controlling the ball while moving smoothly to make the returns in the rallies. Both were playing comfortably, coming up with big answers through the next two games that kept them even through four. The first break came in the sixth with Pliskova consolidating the previous hold with a break to love of Svitolina, who executed some returns the wrong way.
She served two games down and suffered another as she couldn’t get into position to break Pliskova who played for a decider to come into play. Svitolina called out coach Andrew Bettles to come out and keep her encouraged that there was a lot of tennis left to play in the set.
Pliskova didn’t give her that time to do it as she fired a great winner in the corner before an error secured the set to her name after half an hour. The winners came through as well as holding break points, albeit just two in the set. As Pliskova outscored her 28-14, it clearly set up a thrilling third set where it left the competition wide open.
Svitolina knew she had to win the set, no matter the case and began the decider with a break of the Czech, before adding a serve to love in the second. The 26-year-old got into trouble again on serve as she erred, giving Svitolina two break points. Back to back aces forced deuce but the effort fell apart, giving the Ukrainian a 3-0 run. Stubbs was called down by Pliskova who told her to use the forehand while encouraging her to fight on.
It would be an uphill battle for the Czech from thereon. She almost had a hold in the fifth but a challenge was shown to land wide, giving Svitolina a second try but she lost it on a return into the net.
A break for Pliskova cut into the 24-year-old’s margin with the hope of a comeback possible. Svitolina fired back a statement to gain three break points, holding two of them against the Czech to serve for the match. Bettles came back out to keep his player encouraged to finish it herself as the ball was in her court to start the eighth.
Pliskova was the one to dictate in the game as she was all over her ball placement returns that made it a nightmare for Svitolina. The Ukrainian rallied back to save two break points but double-faulted to lose out on another chance to end the Czech's fightback.
It gave Pliskova more time to rally all the way back but errors handed Svitolina two match points. Svitolina swung and missed on Pliskova’s shots that forced deuce again. A long ball gave the 24-year-old a third charm where she won on a volley return to end the match in 1 hour and 54 minutes.
“It was a very tricky match today,” Svitolina said to Andrew Krasny after the match. “I was just trying to stay really focused and I think playing one point at a time was the key and Karolina is the kind of player that can hit many aces and you have to be ready," she added.
Pliskova had six aces that helped her force the third set and still leave herself a chance to make it through the group stage.
With one match to go for both of them, it would make things clear as to which two of the four make the final in the last championship of the season.Published 23 Oct 2018, 22:45 IST