WUHAN, China - Unseeded American Alison Riske had all the answers against No.3 seed Elina Svitolina, dropping just four games to record a 6-1, 6-3 victory to reach the semifinals at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open.
"I thought I played really solid. I thought I did everything I was trying to do. I knew it was going to be a battle. I think mentally I was just prepared for that," Riske said. "I'm just really pleased with the way I competed, for sure."
A punishing 14-minute opening game set the tone for the match, with Svitolina saving five break points as she battled under pressure from Riske. But after nine deuce points and four chances to close out the game coming and going for Svitolina, it was finally Riske who broke to take the marathon game, 1-0.
Riske kept the intensity high in the following games, and had consolidated her lead to 4-0 with a second break before Svitolina could recover. Growing in confidence, Riske - who didn’t face a single break point in the opening set - broke once more to close out the set, 6-1.
Svitolina showed her fight in the second set as she finally grabbed her first break of the Riske serve, converting her third chance to take her first lead of the match at 2-1. But it was a short-lived victory as Riske bounced back from the momentary letdown, breaking straight back at 2-2 and reeling off the next three games in a row, 5-2.
"I expected that in the second set, especially after winning the first 6-1, against a player of her caliber, obviously she's going to push back. I was expecting it, I was kind of ready for it. I felt if I stuck to my game plan, what I was trying to execute out there, I was going to give myself the best chance," added Riske.
"No matter what she was doing, I just had to stick with my game plan. Hey, if she came back, played too good, then that's just out of our control."
Riske served at 81% of first serves in during the one-sided clash against Svitolina, claiming her first career win over the Ukrainian and improving the head-to-head record to 3-1 in the process. The American kept Svitolina contained with smart forays to the net, and her aggression earned her five breaks from 13 opportunities.
The victory is another highlight of one of Riske’s best seasons to date, which includes lifting her second career WTA trophy at ‘s-Hertogenbosch and reaching her first semifinal at Wimbledon.
She’s also made a name of herself for recording dramatic, never-say-die comeback wins over top players, including the Top 10’s Ashleigh Barty and Kiki Bertens, along with Angelique Kerber, Garbine Muguruza and more.
"I'm super excited with the way I'm competing. I just feel like I'm seeing things the way that I wish I had seen them when I was 18 years old fresh on tour. I think maturity plays a part in it," the American said.
"I'm just really happy that I found it now, if not having ever found it. I can only be excited about that."
Into the semifinals of Wuhan for the first time, Riske will take on former two-time champion Petra Kvitova as she seeks a spot in the final. Kvitova took down another Ukranian opponent, Dayana Yastremska, in straight sets earlier in the day to advance.
"It's going to be a challenge obviously again. Playing a lefty, you kind of have to make a few alterations when you're out there, be prepared for that. I feel like I'm playing really well. I'm ready to go. I'm really excited to have another match here."