MONTERREY, Mexico -- Top seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine slid into her first semifinal of the season at the Abierto GNP Seguros on Friday night, ending another solid performance by rising Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez, 6-3, 7-5.
"I served well throughout the match," Svitolina told the press, after her win. "I saved a few break points which was really important in the second set. I think my serving tonight was the key for the match, and I’ll try to keep it up for the next ones."
In the first meeting between the two players, World No.7 Svitolina was able to quell the fiery hitting of the 17-year-old after 98 minutes of play, and reach the final four of an event for the first time since her finalist run at last season’s year-ending Shiseido WTA Finals.
Svitolina was never broken in the clash, saving all five chances the young Canadian held -- which all came in one game. The Ukrainian finished the match with five aces and won 77 percent of points off of her first serve, while claiming over half of Fernandez's second-service points.
"I was serving really well today, and for me it was important to be on my toes all the time, because I know [Fernandez] can start the point really well," said Svitolina. "I tried to stay positive and take one ball at a time."
"I was expecting she would come out and play really well, she won lots of matches last week as well," the No.1 seed continued. "It was quite expected, and I tried to stay focused, tried to play every point as the last one."
Fernandez used her powerful left-handed game to fend off three break points at 1-1, but Svitolina kept attacking the teenager’s arsenal and was rewarded with two more break points at 3-3. On that occasion, the Ukrainian took her chance, extending a rally until Fernandez sent a forehand wide, giving Svitolina the initial break of the match.
That would be all that Svitolina needed to march through the first set. At 5-4, the top seed powered her way to double set point, where she slammed an ace to close out the one-set lead over her rising opponent.
Fernandez faced more break points right away in the second set, as Svitolina held two at 1-1. However, the teenager fended those off with vigor, saving the first with a forehand winner and the second with an ace, before holding for 2-1.
The Canadian then had a huge chance to take a commanding lead in the second set, as she used her fiery groundstrokes to grasp five break points at 3-2. Svitolina, though, came up with some of her best points of the encounter to wipe all five of those opportunities away, and she polished off that service hold for 3-3 with a backhand crosscourt winner.
At last, Svitolina took charge at 5-5, where she swept to triple break points after a series of unforced errors by Fernandez. On her first break point of that game, Svitolina deployed a drop volley winner, giving her a love break and a 6-5 lead.
Serving for the match, Svitolina fell behind 0-30, but slammed three service winners in a row to thunder to a first match point. That would be all the top seed would need, as a final error-forcing forehand sealed her first semifinal spot of the season.
In the semifinals, Svitolina will meet Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands. Rus defeated No.6 seed Rebecca Peterson of Sweden, 6-1, 6-1, in the late quarterfinal.