BRISBANE, Australia – Aliaksandra Sasnovich caused a serious upset at the Brisbane International as she defeated No.1 seed and defending champion Elina Svitolina, 6-4, 0-6, 6-3 to move into the quarterfinals.
Playing with great aggression, the Belarusian fired a string of stunning winners in the opening set before her level dipped in the second. However, she regained her poise for the decider, deservedly taking the victory after a display of power and skill.
“It was a really tough match. From my perspective, the first set was really good but the second not so good,” she said.
Sasnovich had been blown away, 6-1, 6-2, when she faced Svitolina in the final of this event 12 months ago but playing a high-risk brand of tennis produced a first set of the highest order. In particular, her backhand was firing beautifully as she struck winner after winner against the WTA World No.4.
Impressively, she maintained her level for the majority of the opener, suffering only a brief blip as she was broken back after taking the advantage in the sixth game. Despite this setback, she had the fortitude to win 10th game to love.
Until that point, Svitolina had been gaining momentum throughout the set and, even if it escaped her, she started the second in fine voice. As her opponent suffered a lull, she pounced to break in the second game with perhaps her best rally of the match, and this would provide the foundation for a blistering set that she claimed to a bagel.
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Sasnovich might have buckled after a chastening 20 minutes but instead found the aggressive tennis that allowed her to pick off the opening set. In the third game Svitolina’s level wavered and that was the invitation her opponent needed to regain the lead.
Despite the dogged efforts of the 2018 WTA Tour Finals winner to draw level, she was unable to make inroads into her opponents’ serve as the climax of the match drew near.
Indeed, Sasnovich retained her aggressive edge but married it with some wonderful angles and deft touch, best epitomised by the backhand winner she struck to hold and move to within a game of victory.
She was not content to serve out for the match, instead rallying superbly from 40-0 down to win on her first match point, forcing her opponent to scramble all over the court before closing victory out with a super drop that Svitolina could not return.
The difference between this year’s victory and 2018’s defeat was simple, according to Sasnovich: “Last year, I had too much risotto with mushrooms before the match but this year I didn’t!
She is looking forward to a meeting with Donna Vekic, who caused an upset of her own earlier on Wednesday by defeating Kiki Bertens in three sets and has special motivation for winning that meeting.
“My dad will come on January 4 and I’ll try to still be here in the tournament – I want him to watch me,” she said, before reflecting on the forthcoming encounter.
“We’re all good players. Tomorrow will be an interesting match. She’s a fighter, so it’s going to be a good match, I’m sure.”