Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep meet at the WTA Finals on Friday in the resumption of a rivalry that has captivated tennis fans during the 2017 season.
Mark Hodgkinson
October 26, 2017

For as long as she plays tennis, whenever Elina Svitolina looks across the net at Simona Halep, she will be reminded of one of the most excruciating days of her tennis career. But Svitolina can help herself by not thinking too often of what happened in her quarterfinal against Halep at this year's French Open, as she knows doing so could lead to her "ending up in the crazy house". 

They could well play another dozen times over the next few years - to add to their four meetings already - and it's unlikely that any of their matches would be as memorable as when Svitolina led by a set and 5-1, but then didn't progress into her first Grand Slam semifinal. The Ukrainian even held a match point but couldn't convert it. Halep was as bewildered as anyone else at Roland Garros that day how she stayed in the tournament, with the Romanian going through 3-6, 7-6, 6-0 in one of the most extraordinary matches of the season. 

But if anyone imagined that Svitolina would cry in the immediate aftermath of the match, they were to be disappointed, and just minutes after coming off the clay, she had already settled on the best way of approaching such a defeat: "I am sad today, but tomorrow is going to be another day and life continues." 

Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina (Getty)
Halep and Svitolina shake hands after their French Open match (Getty)

A couple of months later, on the hard courts of the Rogers Cup in Toronto, they met for the first time since Paris. If this was viewed as some kind of test for Svitolina's psyche and mental fortitude, she turned in a remarkable performance as she gave up just two games in their semifinal.

"In Paris, it was very difficult to have that loss and experience," she said after that 6-1, 6-1 victory. "So that's why today, from the first point until the last point, I was very focused and I was just 100% on every ball. I learned from that experience that you need to play until the last point and just take one point at a time." 

Two of their three matches this season have gone Svitolina's way, as she also beat Halep in this year's Rome final but overall they are level with two wins apiece as Halep was victorious in their first encounter in 2013. Predicting the winner of their next match isn't straightforward but there is one certainty: Svitolina won't show any complacency, or allow herself any lapses in concentration, until the contest is over.