NEW YORK, NY, USA - No.4 seed Elina Svitolina braved lengthy rain delays and an inspired performance from Katerina Siniakova on her way to the second round of the US Open.
In a roller coaster match marked by swings of momentum and lengthy rain delays, it was Svitolina who managed to stay one step ahead, closing out the match 6-0, 6-7(5), 6-3.
With rain threatening overhead, Svitolina capitalized on an uncharacteristically nervy start from Siniakova to reel off the first seven games in a row. The Czech couldn’t find her shots as Svitolina had an answer for everything her opponent threw at her. Svitolina’s rock-solid defense drew out plenty of unforced errors as she blanked her opponent out of the set in just 23 minutes.
The Czech finally got going in the second set, getting her name on the scoreboard as Svitolina emerged with the edge after three straight breaks of serve at the start of the set.
Siniakova started to find her range, giving Svitolina plenty of trouble with her inside-out backhands as her confidence began to grow.
The World No.4 was two points away from the match - once on her own serve, once on Siniakova’s - but the Czech’s comeback was already underway, and her efforts were rewarded with a late break to force a tiebreak.
But just as the decider began, the dark storm clouds opened up and washed out play for the day, putting a damper on their momentum and halting Siniakova’s turnaround.
Upon resumption the next day, Siniakova picked up right where she left off, claiming the tiebreak and rolling to a 2-0 lead to start the third.
But her lead didn’t last for long as Svitolina shook off the rust and pounced on the vulnerable Siniakova serve to earn two breaks in a row, reeling off six of the next seven games to put an end to Siniakova’s challenge and make her way into the second round after two hours and 23 minutes on court.
Into the second round for the fourth time, Svitolina is looking to build on her year of career-best results and better her streak of back-to-back third round appearances at the US Open. With a WTA-leading five titles under her belt this year, the Ukrainian is poised to improve that record and put together a maiden run to the second week - and beyond - at Flushing Meadows.
An even bigger incentive: Svitolina is also one of eight players who have a chance to finish the US Open as WTA World No.1. She would need to reach at least the semifinals - and see other results go her way - in order to claim the top ranking.
Up next she’ll take on Evgeniya Rodina, who topped Eugenie Bouchard in a tidy straight sets, 7-6(2), 6-1 to start her US Open campaign.