SINGAPORE - No.6 seed Elina Svitolina ended Caroline Wozniacki’s BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global title defense in three sets - recording a perfect three wins from three matches to top the White Group.
Both players came into the match win one goal: take the second White Group semifinal spot. With Karolina Pliskova winning in straight sets against Petra Kvitova to advance in the earlier match, the advancement scenarios became pretty simple: while Svitolina needed just one set to advance, Wozniacki would be out unless she stayed perfect to win in two.
In the end it was Svitolina who prevailed, edging through in a tight three sets to win 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 after a hard-fought two hours and 35 minutes of play.
“I knew that I had to win one set. I mean, there was lots of pressure, and I think for her, as well,” Svitolina told press afterward. “We were both under pressure.
“Here this round robin is not easy, no easy matches, no easy scenarios. So I had to fight for every ball, and I think today I was really pushed mentally to go through really, really tough moments, because to play against Caroline, you always have to put one extra ball over the net. She always chase every ball.
“That's why, for me, this was like one of the toughest probably battles mentally.”
After Wozniacki edged through the first set, the match became a one-set shootout for a spot in the next round. The Dane made the perfect, aggressive start against Svitolina, bringing up break chances right away in the first game and finally converting at 2-1 for an early lead. But Svitolina didn’t back down, and she was right back in it when she leveled at 4-4.
A few games later at 5-4, Svitolina was three points from a spot in the next round when Wozniacki once again came roaring back, finding her best tennis to hold off the Ukrainian. Wozniacki finally grabbed the decisive break at 6-5, and then powered to a strong hold to bring herself within a set of the semifinals.
It was just as tight of a contest in the second set, with Wozniacki scoring another early break at 2-1, and Svitolina breaking straight back to level the score in the next game. Both players brought out their best tennis, drawing the other into lengthy, grueling rallies and covering the court in style.
The next seven games went comfortably to the server, before Svitolina finally created her first set points at 6-5, looking to avoid the tiebreak and claim the contest. She attacked the Dane’s serve relentlessly as the tension mounted, before finally taking her fifth break point to win the set - and seal her spot in the semifinals.
With her advancement guaranteed regardless of the final result, Svitolina was determined to swing freely and record her third victory from three White Group matches. But Australian Open champion Wozniacki didn’t go down easily, and the pair had another close battle on their hands in the decider.
The first seven games went to the server, before Svitolina finally scored the decisive break at 5-3, closing in on the set. But Wozniacki clawed her way back in the next game, bringing up four break points to extend her stay in the match. Svitolina handled the pressure like a champion, and converted her second match point to seal the contest.
“For me, going into this tournament was very important mentally to bounce back,” Svitolina said. “I had really, really tough second part of the season. You know, I was actually surprised, because I was very positive and I just keep fighting.
“So this really shows, and I think I'm getting mentally tough. That's what I have been working on really hard. And definitely [my coach] Andy [Bettles] helps me a lot, and it's something that really I appreciate it.”
She added, “It definitely made me stronger in those tough moments. And now I'm just enjoying that, this success. You know, the job is not done yet, but these three matches that I had, they have been really tough. Today I saw this challenge. I'm really, really happy the way I could handle it.”