ROME, Italy – No.8 seed Elina Svitolina is through to her first semifinal at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia after scoring a commanding victory over Karolina Pliskova, 6-3, 7-6(9).
Svitolina was undaunted by her record in the pair’s previous matches; she’d dropped all four tour-level matches against Pliskova, including their last clay court match at 2014 Nürnberg and their most recent encounter in the semifinals of the Brisbane International earlier this year.
“I was very happy today, not even just that I won this match but with the way I played and how I handled the pressure,” Svitolina told WTA Insider afterwards. “Especially in the tiebreak, the way I handled everything. It was something for me to be really proud of.”
The Ukrainian’s dogged defense kept Pliskova’s biggest weapon neutralized in the opening set – Pliskova held serve only once and was held to winning just 44% of points behind her first serve and a meager 27% behind her second delivery. Svitolina broke three times to wrap up the opening set after just under a half hour.
But Pliskova seemed to roar to life as the match went on and found her rhythm the courts at Next Gen Arena got drier. She recovered strongly from being 2-0 down, finally finding her serves to get a foothold in the match and break Svitolina twice.
The Czech put herself within a game of taking the match to a third set at 5-4, But Svitolina struck back right on time, piling on the pressure and finding the lines with her forehand to draw level, sending the match into a tiebreaker.
The pair were deadlocked in the decider with little to separate them. Pliskova brought up three set points but Svitolina bravely battled them away – with a bit of luck from the net, at one point – to bring up match points for herself. She took the match at the second time of asking, sealing her spot into the Rome semifinals after an hour and 32 minutes.
“She had a lot of set points and she had been serving for the set,” Svitolina said. “I was just trying to stay in the zone and not think about what’s going to happen.
“I couldn’t even believe it when I finished in two sets, I was so into the moment. I’m proud of how I handled the pressure.”
“I was a little bit unlucky, especially in the second set with all the set points,” Pliskova told WTA Insider afterwards. “But this happens - it’s tennis and it’s normal.
“I would say I’ve had three good matches here, which is better than all the other tournaments where I was playing on clay. It’s definitely an improvement, and there’s still Paris in front of me.”
With the win Svitolina improves to 4-0 against the WTA’s Top 5 players after scoring three straight wins against Angelique Kerber earlier in the season.
She awaits the winner between No.3 seed and reigning French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza and No.9 seed Venus Williams for a spot in the final as she bids to take home a tour-leading fourth WTA title of the year in Rome.