ROME, Italy - After winning just seven points in the opening set, defending champion Elina Svitolina rallied for a 0-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Daria Kasatkina to return to the quarterfinals at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
Having bageled Kasatkina twice in their first three meetings, the World No.4 was given a taste of her own medicine by the Russian in the opening set, and lost nine of the first 11 games to face a 6-0, 3-2 deficit.
However, the defending champion won the last three games of the second set to send the match to a decider, and game from a break down by pocketing the last five games to escape into the last eight.
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"It was a little bit slow today, but she was playing unbelievable tennis. It was a little bit of both that I couldn't find my rhythm and she was really playing so great in the first set," Svitolina said after the match.
"I have to thank the crowd who put me back into the match in the second set. I was just trying to find my way and find my way into the match, and the crowd helped me massively today. I'm very happy with the way I could handle it and to win the match."
A near-perfect first set effort from the Russian saw her convert all three of the break points she created as she dropped just four points on her own serve, snapping Svitolina's streak of five straight sets won against her.
Though she raised her first-serve percentage from 69% to 81% in the second set, Kasatkina proved much less effective behind her delivery as the match wore on, and won less than 50% of the points in her service games in sets two and three.
After falling behind 2-0 by dropping her serve to love in the opening game, Kasatkina nonetheless rebounded for the next three straight, and stamped down an emphatic hold as the World No.14 looked to score her first-ever win in the head-to-head in emphatic fashion.
— WTA (@WTA) May 17, 2018
However, she would not win another game in the set as Svitolina, buoyed by increased crowd support on Next Gen Arena, won the next four games to send the match to a decider, and continued through to a comeback in the deciding set.
A love break drew the World No.4 level in the decider - as she shook off early disappointment of dropping serve after not converting a break point in Kasatkina's first service game of the third - and she never looked back from there en route to sealing victory in one hour and 36 minutes.
"I knew what she would bring to the court, and I know that she's a bit of a tricky player. She drop shots, slices and sees the court pretty well," Svitolina assessed.
"I was just focused on what I needed to do, to move well, to get lots of balls back. She gave me the chance and I took it."
Up next for the defending champion is a quarterfinal meeting with Angelique Kerber, as the No.11 seed breezed past Maria Sakkari, 6-1, 6-1.