CINCINNATI, OH, USA – No.7 seed Elina Svitolina continued her dominance over Elise Mertens, 6-4, 6-1 to move into the third round of the Western & Southern Open by winning a battle of two 2018 quarterfinalists.
She had claimed two of the previous three meetings with her opponent, including their last match in Montreal last year, and never appeared in serious danger of losing her grip on the rivalry over the 71-minute encounter.
The tight nature of the first set’s score did little justice to the control the higher-ranked player held on the match, yet Svitolina was ruthless in the second as she sealed a last-16 berth with some to spare.
She pinpointed the early stages, in which she saved the only two break points she would face, as being critical.
“I was expecting a very tough match,” the WTA World No.7 said. “In the beginning, it was very intense – she’s a very aggressive player and always brings intensity to the court. I had to expect that and move my feet really quick and try to get chances to break her. Today I served really well, and I was happy with that.”
Aided by that serve, Svitolina moved confidently out of her moment of danger and immediately set about breaking Mertens. With her opponent struggling to find a high percentage of first serves, she was stepping well up the court for the second, inducing five double faults in her opponent’s opening three games. Such pressure allowed her to take command by breaking in the fifth game.
“I played very solid from the baseline, I had great defense today,” she added. “Elise tries to take the ball early and try to dictate, so it was important for me to put pressure on her. I executed the game plan and it was really good.”
Meanwhile, Mertens’ own return was persistently misfiring, so it was not until the Ukrainian was serving for the set that her delivery came under any kind of pressure again. At the critical moment, Svitolina did not crack, winning successive points from deuce to seal the opening set after 39 minutes.
Things unraveled again for Mertens in the third game of the second set, driving a shot unforced into the net before firing long when she had advanced up the court and worked a winning position. It opened the door to allow Svitolina to construct two lovely points to grab the initiative, sealing the break with a well-judged crosscourt backhand.
A matter of minutes later, the set was firmly in control of the seeded player, whose crunching forehand winner off a Mertens second serve to provide an insurance break was a fitting motif of the match as a whole.
The match slipped quickly away from the Belgian, who was massaging her right shoulder at changeovers, and at the second time of asking Svitolina sealed the match,
Next up for her is a meeting with either Zarina Diyas or Sofia Kenin.