Elina Svitolina remains unbroken at the WTA Finals. The world number eight rose to the occasion when it mattered most, entering the semi-finals at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Her victory over Simona Halep came in straight sets 7-5, 6-3, making her the first to qualify from the purple group in the final four. It was the second straight win on the court this week, marking six consecutive wins in the tournament.
The defending champion met Halep for the second time in the tournament and the tenth time overall. Svitolina lost her series lead this year with the Romanian, losing in Doha and watching her capture a maiden major at Wimbledon. Halep had a tough match on her hands against Bianca Andreescu, showing physical pain before coming through with the win over the Canadian. With her and Svitolina the only players victorious in group play so far, the fight for a second straight was vital to clinching a semi-final spot.
The Ukrainian pushed herself to be the leader in the set and came out with a serve to love to open the match. Halep struggled to get into gear committing four errors that took the two to deuce. Svitolina took advantage of her opponent’s early vulnerability, capturing the break. She continued to flourish, consolidating the third game over the Romanian Halep, who faced her biggest gap since Beijing.
Sloppy play from Svitolina allowed Halep to break, scoring a serve to love closing the gap to within a game. The 25-year-old called down coach Andrew Bettles to help her adjust the mistakes and be consistent going forward. With the set tied on Halep’s service hold, the seventh became a competitive fight that Svitolina managed to hold in. The Romanian took a conference during the break with Darren Cahill, who told her to bring more of the forehand and open the court.
The tactics discussed worked out as Svitolina had trouble getting the ball back across the net being far behind the baseline. The Ukrainian continued to hold serve, to give her the chance to put the set away with a break. Halep refused to give her opponent the leverage but had to step up to force a tiebreak after the 11th game. Halep failed to do so with errors committed, giving Svitolina a 7-5 set victory in 55 minutes. The Romanian had a total of 21 errors through 12 games, giving very little else in her defeat.
The pattern of their battles continued as Svitolina saw challenges from Halep and vice versa in the second. A break to love for the Romanian in the third saw her facing attacks from the 25-year-old. Halep forced deuce but blew two chances on the AD point securing the break back for Svitolina. The world number eight consolidated the break in the fifth taking the lead. Halep followed suit to stay in touch with the Ukrainian, who showed a slow rise to her control of service.
After a hold in the seventh, she took another conference with Bettles, who energized her, giving key tactics to go big, with the end of the set near. Her break to love gave her a 5-3 lead and a shot at the first of four semi-final spots. Despite going to deuce, she was gifted an error from Halep, handing her match point. A short rally came to an end, with the Romanian failing to get the ball back over, ending the match in an hour and 39 minutes.
Svitolina was happy with her game, especially the way she defended. In her on-court interview, she said,
"It was an extremely physical match. We were both chasing lots of balls, and we left a lot of energy out on the court. I was playing very solid today, and my defense was very good. I'm very happy about that."