No.1 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine took home her first WTA singles title of the season by defeating No.9 seed Alizé Cornet of France, 7-5, 6-4, to win the inaugural Chicago Women's Open on Saturday.
After two hours and two minutes of grinding tennis in the Illinois heat, World No.6 Svitolina emerged victorious and captured the 16th WTA singles title of her career. Svitolina has an outstanding 16-3 win-loss record in WTA singles finals.
Svitolina and 68th-ranked Cornet had a robust head-to-head coming into the clash, with Svitolina holding a slim 4-3 edge in their rivalry despite Cornet having won their last encounter, at 2019 Eastbourne.
But it was Svitolina who came out the winner this time around, as she returned to the winner's circle for the first time since winning the clay-court event in Strasbourg nearly one year ago.
Match stats: The return was key in this battle of fleet-footed players, with 10 of the 22 games going against serve, including in 70 percent of the games in the second set.
And it was Svitolina who finished the match with the advantage behind that shot, particularly returning the Cornet second service, where she won 62 percent of points. Svitolina was perfect when holding break points in the affair, converting all six she grasped.
Key moments: Consecutive forehand return winners gave Svitolina an early break at 2-0 in the opening set, but deft lobs and dropshots by crafty Cornet helped her pull back on serve and stay there through 5-5.
There, Cornet held three break points, but Svitolina batted each of the trio away and held on for 6-5, as Cornet started to struggle with her movement. The Frenchwoman let a 40-15 lead slip in the next game, where Svitolina eventually broke for the one-set lead after over an hour by drawing an error with a forehand down the line.
After an off-court medical time-out to have her leg tended to, Cornet again fell behind 3-0 in the second set. But Svitolina, who ended up a break three different times as the set progressed, was unable to hold her leads, including when she served for the match at 5-3.
But with an opportunity to break for the title, Svitolina finally took her chance. A forehand miscue by Cornet at 5-4 gave Svitolina her first championship point, which she converted with a superb backhand winner that landed square on the baseline.
Svitolina said: "It was a good week here," Svitolina told the press, after her win. "Tough conditions the last few days, but in the end I’m very happy I could get a trophy. It’s a good feeling. I came here to get some confidence, play some good matches, and in the end it happened like that. I’m looking forward to New York."
"It’s never easy to play against Alize because she’s a great fighter, she puts a lot of balls back, and when it’s conditions like this, you’re not only playing against your opponent, you’re also playing against the conditions," Svitolina added. "So you have to be smart with this game."
Moving forward: Svitolina and Cornet both head on to the US Open next week, where they each have intriguing first-round clashes.
Svitolina, seeded No.5 in New York and a semifinalist at the Open in 2019, will take on Canadian qualifier Rebecca Marino. Marino, who was in the Top 40 a decade ago, has had a resurgent 2021 after nearly five years off the tour.
Cornet, who reached the round of 16 at the US Open last year, will have her hands full against No.20 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia. Jabeur is having a career-best year, winning her first title in Birmingham, reaching the Wimbledon quarterfinals, and currently residing in the Top 10 of the Porsche Race to Shenzhen.
Doubles final: A sister act took place in the Chicago Women's Open doubles final on Saturday, but on opposite sides of the court.
No.3 seeds Nadiia Kichenok of Ukraine and Raluca Olaru of Romania took home the title, defeating Nadiia's twin sister Lyudmyla and her partner Makoto Ninomiya, the No.4 seeds, 7-6(6), 5-7, [10-8].
"It was a really tough match, for me especially," Nadiia Kichenok said, after the match. "It's always tough to play against your sister, extra nerves, and I want to thank Raluca for helping me! But it was a good match, a close match, and I'm really happy we made it as the winners today."
The closely-contested final spanned two days, as it was postponed overnight with Nadiia Kichenok and Olaru ahead by a set, but trailing 2-4 in the second set. Overall, the match took two hours and 15 minutes to finish.
It is Nadiia Kichenok and Olaru's second title as a team; they also won the title in St. Petersburg earlier this season. It is the seventh career WTA doubles title for Nadiia Kichenok, and the 11th doubles title for Olaru.