Elina Svitolina of Ukraine extended her triumphant return to the Hologic WTA Tour by reaching the Round of 16 at Wimbledon on Friday.
Svitolina ended the resurgent run of American qualifier Sofia Kenin with a 7-6(3), 6-2 victory on Court No.3. Svitolina is into the second week at SW19 for the first time since her semifinal showing in 2019.
"I think today I just had to put fighting spirit in front of me, and just try to really be focused on myself and trying to fight for every single ball," Svitolina said after her win.
Svitolina will next face former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka in the fourth round. No.19 seed Azarenka defeated No.11 seed Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-4 earlier on Friday.
Azarenka has held all the cards in their head-to-head up to this point, winning all five of their previous encounters.
Back to winning ways: Svitolina was off tour for more than a year after giving birth to daughter Skaï in October of 2022. She returned to action this April and started slowly, losing four of her first five matches.
But Svitolina eventually regained the form that pulled her to No.3 in the world, winning the Strasbourg title and reaching the Roland Garros quarterfinals. She has now reached the second week at two consecutive majors, after being ranked outside the Top 1000 just three months ago.
On Friday, Svitolina squared off against Kenin in a showdown between former Top 5 players on the comeback trail. Svitolina came into their match with a 3-2 head-to-head lead, but all of their previous matches had occurred in 2019.
Kenin, who won the 2020 Australian Open, is currently ranked No.128 and had to qualify for the main draw. However, Kenin also reclaimed some of her top form this week, notching a Top 10 upset of Coco Gauff in the first round, then beating Wang Xinyu in the second round.
Kenin used deft drop shots to build an early 3-1 lead in the first set, and she was a point away from 4-1 before Svitolina was able to erase a break point during a lengthy hold for 3-2. After dodging that peril, Svitolina surged, breaking Kenin at love to level the set at 3-3.
All five of their previous meetings had featured at least one tiebreak set, and this time was no exception. In the breaker, Svitolina took charge, following a drop shot with a forehand passing winner to lead 5-3. An ace gave Svitolina three set points at 6-3; she needed only one as Kenin double-faulted to cede the set.
"I had to really play one point at a time and to not get too frustrated," Svitolina said. "I think this was important as well. So really happy I could handle that first set. Tiebreak is never easy."
After gritting out the first set by a whisker-thin margin, Svitolina was untroubled in the second set, where she never faced a break point. Svitolina took the victory in 1 hour and 32 minutes to set her latest meeting with Azarenka.
Azarenka advances: Earlier, in a matchup between Top 20 players, Azarenka eased past Kasatkina to make the second week of Wimbledon for the first time in six years.
Azarenka needed 1 hour and 16 minutes to extend her undefeated record against Kasatkina to 4-0 and notch her 75th career win over a Top 10 player. Kasatkina edged back into the Top 10 on Monday after reaching last week’s Eastbourne final.
"I felt like today was my best performance this tournament," Azarenka said afterward. "I played very solid from the beginning to the end. It was a lot of really interesting rallies, quite a lot of variety today that I was able to use in my match.
"I was real proud of my movement. I thought it really picked up from the beginning of the tournament. Yeah, was happy to finish in two sets."
The two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka is into the Round of 16 at Wimbledon for the sixth time in her career and the first time since 2017. Azarenka’s best Wimbledon performances are back-to-back semifinals in 2011 and 2012.
On Friday, Azarenka earned a critical break for 4-2 with consecutive backhand winners, then switched over and dominated with her forehand wing during the next two games. Down set point, Kasatkina double-faulted to cede her service to Azarenka for the third and final time in the set.
Kasatkina improved her groundstroke depth to pull from 3-1 down to 3-3 in the second set. But Azarenka's returns remained on point, and she broke Kasatkina at 5-4 to grab the victory. Azarenka converted five of her six break points as she booked a return engagement in the Round of 16.