DUBAI, UAE - No.6 seed Elina Svitolina is back into the quarterfinals at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships for the fourth year in a row after dismantling Garbiñe Muguruza in two sets.
Svitolina, the two-time defending champion, needed just 62 minutes to dismiss the two-time Grand Slam champion and former World No.1 Muguruza - dropping just three games to claim the 6-1, 6-2 victory.
“The most important is to go out there and focus and play every point like really focused,” Svitolina told press after the match. “You know [Muguruza] is obviously a good player. She’s been on top for long time. She won the big tournaments. She can come back into the match any moment.
“That's why I just had to go out there and be ready for everything. In the end, that's why the score is like this, because I was really on it today.”
The win not only sends Svitolina into the quarterfinals, it extends her impressive Dubai winning streak to 11 victories in a row. In fact, she’s got one of the best winning records in the history of this event, 15-2 overall - and so far she’s only been pushed to three sets just three times ever in Dubai.
Svitolina keeps her hat-trick hopes alive as she returns to the latter stages of the Dubai event, and she’s seeking to make a bit of history as well. Should she win this tournament, she’d be only the third woman to win three or more Dubai titles, after Justine Henin (2003-2004, 2006-2007) and Venus Williams (2009-2010, 2014), but she would be the first to claim three in a row.
“I don't know because every year is different,” Svitolina said of her stellar Dubai record. “Every year I have to really work hard. I had really tough battles here for the past three, four years even when I coming before. I played semifinal, I remember, against Sara Errani when she won here. It was unbelievable battle. I played some really tough matches here.
“Even on that weeks when I was winning, it's not easy. It's not like I was touching the ball and everything was in. I had to work my way into the match each time.”
Against Muguruza, Svitolina faced a much more challenging test than the scoreline indicates. Muguruza’s firepower kept Svitolina under pressure throughout: she started the set by pushing Svitolina to deuce, and the next game was just as closely contested. But both games ultimately went to Svitolina, whose dogged defending helped her absorb and redirect Muguruza’s pace as she built up a 2-0 lead.
That was the pattern that set the tone for the rest of the match: Muguruza’s aggression keeping her in the games and rallies, but Svitolina raising her level in the key moments to surge ahead.
The Spaniard managed to break back and make it 2-1, but that would be her only edge as Svitolina came charging back. Svitolina reeled off the next four games in a row, stepping inside the court and keeping Muguruza on the back foot. The Spaniard wasn’t able to hold serve at all during the first set as Svitolina served it out with confidence.
The second set saw Muguruza show more mettle, finally winning a service game to challenge Svitolina. But while the Ukrainian was able to raise her level when it counted, Muguruza didn’t seem to adjust her tactics at all, and soon Svitolina was back on top in the rallies.
Svitolina reeled off five games in a row to build up a daunting 5-1 lead, with a double break, and closed out the match after 62 minutes to win 6-1, 6-2.
Up next in the quarterfinals, Svitolina will face another Spanish opponent in Carla Suarez Navarro, who knocked out the author of the big Naomi Osaka upset, Kristina Mladenovic, in a tough straight sets, 7-5, 7-5.
“She's a [very different] player, I would say,” Svitolina said. “She changes the rhythm, she plays one handed. You have to adjust your game to this little bit.
“I don't want to think so much about who is on the other side of the net. I want to focus on my game and what I have to do. The ball comes to my side, doesn't matter who is on the other side.”