MOSCOW, Russia – Veronika Kudermetova scored the biggest win of her young career as she defeated No.1 seed Elina Svitolina 6-1, 2-6, 7-5 in the second round of the Kremlin Cup, winning through in two hours, and two minutes.
The 22-year-old was playing a Top 5 opponent for the first time but looked completely at ease with the challenge facing her in Moscow and grew in stature as the match wore on.
Svitolina, meanwhile, already had the knowledge that she had qualified for the Shiseido WTA Finals in Shenzhen, but the Wimbledon and US Open semifinalist saw her run of nine victories in tournament-opening matches come to an end.
"My plan was to put pressure, to come into the net, because from the baseline, I would have fewer chances," Kudermetova said on-court after the match.
"I think I managed to stay in it thanks to the tremendous support from the crowd."
It was evident from the outset that the Russian’s game was utterly dialed in as she hit 13 winners and just eight unforced errors to race away with the first set in just 28 minutes.
Svitolina took command of the second, but her opponent showed remarkable composure and maturity to pinch the decider.
Kudermetova, who has risen nearly 100 places in the WTA Rankings since the beginning of 2019, was extremely attacking from the outset as she sought to bludgeon the Svitolina serve and had success immediately as she broke to 15.
Her delivery, meanwhile, would never be seriously threatened in the opening set, notably racing through the sixth game of the match in just 67 seconds, though on three occasions the Ukrainian reached 30.
Svitolina’s biggest headaches were coming on her own serve. With Kudermetova’s eye very much in, the top seed was only able to scrape 33% of points on her second delivery in the opener.
Even when her first serve made its mark, the Russian’s attitude was to go after it, with two stunning crosscourt forehand return winners helping her to a second break that was quickly followed by the set.
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Rather passive with her approach in the opener, Svitolina took a fresh attitude into the second, with the evidence suggesting that the Kudermetova storm would not simply blow itself out.
She was far more proactive with her groundstrokes, hitting more purposefully towards the corners, and wasted no time in establishing a 3-0 lead, breaking the World No.42 for the first time.
There was just one moment of worry for Svitolina has she moved to claim the second set, but after staring down a break point, she added a second break with a continuation of her more assertive tennis.
Although the Russian No.4 finished the set with 14 unforced errors to just seven winners, much of this was due to the pressure coming from the opposite end of the court.
With just 57 minutes on the clock, the match headed into a decider, although the decider would last longer than the previous two sets combined.
It was Svitolina who took the match by the scruff of the neck as she forged a 2-0 advantage, but this simply prompted her opponent to step further up the court. While the mindset was still an attacking one, she played with a larger margin for error, which combined with Svitolina’s insatiable resolve saw the rallies drawn out.
Having been broken early, it was the younger player who gained the momentum in the middle part of the set, winning four of five games to take back control with a smart tactical performance as she held the ball more effectively and started to punch holes in her rival’s defense once more.
Ultimately, this was telling. Kudermetova held comfortably on two occasions when they match would have been on the line had she slipped, then took her chance to seal the victory at the first opportunity.
She can look forward to her 10th quarterfinal of 2019, with wildcard Varvara Gracheva or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova her opponent.