STRABOURG, France – No.2 seed Elina Svitolina claimed the title at the Internationaux de Strasbourg as she defeated No.5 seed Elena Rybakina, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 in an encounter that stretched one hour 53 minutes.
In cold conditions, it was her greater consistency that told as she won her 15th WTA Tour final as she made only 23 unforced errors in comparison to her rival’s 34, while she defended eight of the 10 break points that she faced.
The turning point, however, was the opening game of the deciding set, in which she saved four successive break points and four in total before racing away with the final four games of the match for the loss of only three points.
“It really gave me confidence to come back into the match,” she said. “The second set was a little bit one sided. It gave me hope and a better feel at the beginning of the third set.”
After a delayed start due to rain, the first four games all went the way of the server, but with Rybakina struggling uncharacteristically in the early stages with her delivery, a double fault threw up a couple of break-point opportunities for her opponent. Svitolina might have gone long with the first, but she forced an error on the second.
“It was not easy, but it’s the same for everyone any you have to adjust quickly,” she said, reflecting on the delay. “It was important to come out and play my game, and not think about that so much.”
While the WTA World No.18 was able to make some headway on the Svitolina serve, earning a quick break-back point, this was snuffed out with an angled forehand as the 26-year-old went on to serve. The Monterrey champion was pushed to deuce in her subsequent service game, too, but closed out twice more to seal the opening set.
The pivotal moment in the second came in the first game. Svitolina forced break point but fired wide and it would prove to be the only opportunity she would have in the frame, which Rybakina took control of by raising her first-serve percentage to 70 and making only eight unforced errors.
The Kazak player immediately stole back the momentum by breaking and had the opportunity to gain some insurance in a tight fourth game, only for Svitolina to hold.
Thereafter, however, Rybakina really started to fire, showing her confidence with a smart drop to win the fifth game after pushing her opponent outside the court on her forehand side. A second break rapidly followed and soon came the set.
It seemed that she would continue that momentum into the decider as she raced into a 0-40 advantage in the first game, but Svitolina saw off the succession of break points, delivering her first ace of the match in a timely moment in the process.
Rybakina, who had not dropped a set this week before the final, initially shrugged that blow off as she held comfortably, yet it had steeled Svitolina, who would lose only one further point on serve in the remainder of the match.
The Ukrainian, meanwhile, was stirring towards her best level, forcing Rybakina to deuce on six occasions in the fourth set.
Thereafter, the match swung very quickly and decisively into the favor of the Rome quarterfinalist, who broke twice as her opponent faded.
“I rushed a bit in the third set. I lost a few games very quickly. I can serve a little bit better and make some better decisions,” Rybakina said. “It was so tough to play today because of the cold.
“It was the same for both of us. We had to fight and try to do our best.”
Svitolina, meanwhile, was pleased with the way she rallied from a disappointing second set.
“It was important to regroup and to get back into the match. It was really positive stuff for me,” she said.
“Normally the tournaments are playing in really hot conditions. We were happy to finish today. In the end we got lucky to play. It’s different conditions to what we were expecting. I handled these conditions and the conditions well here in Strasbourg.”
Svitolina, the 2010 French Open junior champion, will return to Paris off the back of her fifth WTA Tour clay court title from as many finals, and her second Top 20 win of the year after overcoming Aryna Sabalenka on Friday.
In the doubles final, top seeds Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs needed just 67 minutes to capture their first title as a team, beating No.4 seeds Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani, 6-4, 6-3.
The duo, who each captured their second title of 2020, bounced back from an opening-round loss in Rome in their second event together, having had success during the U.S. events with different partners.
Schuurs captured the Western & Southern Open title with Kveta Peschke over Melichar and Xu Yifan, while the American added the Strasbourg title to a win with Xu in Adelaide in January.