MONTERREY, Mexico -- Top seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine clinched her first title of the 2020 season when she defeated No.9 seed Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, in a gritty three-hour Abierto GNP Seguros final.
"Marie was fighting great, and I think it was a very high-level match," Svitolina told the press, after the match. "We’ve both been playing good, we were fighting, and there were no easy games. I think the people really pushed us to play our best, and it was amazing to get the support from the Mexican people."
The hard-fought victory ends a title drought of over a year for the World No.7, as her win over the Czech gives her a first singles title since she hoisted the trophy at the WTA Finals at the end of the 2018 season.
"It feels amazing," Svitolina added. "It’s another step towards my goals, and I’m moving in the right direction. I’m happy that it’s going the right way."
Svitolina fired six aces and won nearly three-quarters of points on her first serve during the tilt against first-time WTA singles finalist Bouzkova, the World No.57. In the final set, Svitolina won 67 percent of her first-serve points to Bouzkova's 45 percent, helping her to the tight win.
"There were no easy ways after losing the second set," Svitolina stated. "I really had to regroup and clear my mind, and be really on it and just keep working."
The encounter opened with a marathon first game, where Svitolina pulled from triple break point down to deuce, before three more break points for Bouzkova and three game points for Svitolina came and went. After 11 minutes, Bouzkova converted her seventh break point of the game with a backhand crosscourt winner, and the first game was put on the scoreboard.
The Czech held to reach 2-0, but Svitolina eventually worked her way back to level footing, breaking back for 2-2 as she shored up her groundstroke game. After that, both players had break points mid-set, as the rallies became longer and the angles more acute, but each steered out of trouble en route to a 5-5 tie.
After Svitolina held for 6-5, Bouzkova reached 30-0 in her next game, putting the duo close to a tiebreak. But two crosscourt winners by Svitolina brought her to 30-30, and the top seed then grasped a set point with a scintillating forehand passing shot down the line. There, Bouzkova pushed a backhand wide, and an excited Svitolina had earned the one-set lead after 68 minutes.
The second set, though, started with Bouzkova pressing the top seed immediately once again. The Czech held two break points in the first game, but Svitolina hit her way out of trouble to open the frame with a hold. Svitolina then had three chances to get the first break of the set at 2-1, but Bouzkova stayed aggressive and moved forward when she could, holding on for 2-2.
It was Bouzkova who would grab the first, and what would prove to be the only break of the set. At 3-3, a forehand winner by the Czech pulled that game to deuce, and after two miscues by Svitolina followed, the No.9 seed had moved ahead 4-3. Bouzkova then consolidated the break for 5-3, putting herself a game away from leveling the match.
The Czech held two set points on Svitolina’s serve in the next game, before Svitolina was able to blast her way out of trouble and hold for 5-4. But that only delayed the inevitable as Bouzkova converted her third set point in the following game with a superb serve, as the Czech won her own lengthy set -- 55 minutes long -- to put the clash at one set apiece.
The rally length and intensity continued to be at high level as the pair exchanged breaks to kick off the deciding set. It was Svitolina who started to edge ahead in the set, as she continued to end up on top in grueling rallies more often than not, earning a second break and a third game in a row to lead 3-1.
An ace on game point in the subsequent game extended the Svitolina lead to 4-1 before Bouzkova quashed the top seed’s four game winning streak. At 4-2, 30-30, though, Svitolina used incredible defense to push a point to its fullest extent before closing out the rally with a sterling backhand angled winner to reach game point, which she converted for 5-2.
With Svitolina serving for the title, Bouzkova made a late charge, cracking stellar shots to break the leader and pull back on serve at 5-4. But in the next game, the Czech found herself in trouble on serve right away, and Svitolina garnered two match points. On her first chance, Svitolina’s forehand dropshot forced an error from her opponent, and the title went to the No.1 seed.