LONDON, Great Britain - No.4 seed Elina Svitolina produced an implacable display of counterpunching tennis to move into the fourth round for the first time with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over the unseeded Carina Witthoeft.
“I'm very, very proud of myself because, you know, just couple weeks before, there was some doubts about my Achilles,” Svitolina explained in her post-match press conference. “Didn't even think that I could make it to the fourth round. Especially here where I felt very uncomfortable.
“And now I'm in the fourth round. I feel pretty confident. Like today's performance, you could see, like, I'm playing well and really enjoying and it's very special for me to be here and play well.”
Despite her high seeding, the Ukrainian had never progressed past the second round of The Championships coming into this year's edition. Aware that many pundits had predicted another early exit, she had told the press after her first-round win over Birmingham runner-up Ashleigh Barty: "Of course it was a big thing for me, big motivation to win, because lots of people are saying, Oh, you know, very tough draw for Svitolina. You know, now they can shhh."
The 22-year-old was still on a mission as she came out against Witthoeft, who had previously played four Slam third rounds without winning any. Svitolina soaked up her opponent's power with ease, landing 81% of her first serves and striking eight winners of her own as she broke the German twice to take the set 6-1 in 22 minutes. Even that scoreline was closer than it could have been: Witthoeft converted her sole game point, in the fifth game of the set, after having to fend off another pair of break points.
A four-time WTA title winner in 2017, Svitolina continued to out-manoeuvre the World No.65 at will as she broke once more for a 4-2 lead in the second set. But Witthoeft, who had come back from 0-5 in the decider to oust No.26 seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the first round, showcased some of the same fighting spirit to battle back, harnessing her big forehand to win three straight games and serve to take the match into a final set.
Svitolina, though, is increasingly gaining a reputation as a player able to up the intensity in crucial junctures - and that's exactly what she did again today, hitting with more authority to take control of points. As Witthoeft's hitting grew wild once again, ballooning a forehand wide of the tramlines and sending a drive volley over the baseline despite an empty court, Svitolina grew in confidence as the finishing line drew near. In an illustration of her ability to bring her best in big moments, she played her best points of the match in the final three games: a stab volley winner after desperately chasing down a dropshot to bring up break-back point at 4-5, and delightful touch to finish a 20-shot rally to reach match point.
“In the first set I was playing amazing today. From the hand of Midas probably,” Svitolina laughed. “But yeah, I was playing amazing. Second set it was normal because tennis is such a long, match is so long so there can be changes. So it was normal that she would have a chance to come back to the match.
“It will be different in the fourth round. We'll see. I'm going to be ready for the match and do my best to win that match.
Now in the second week of a Slam for the first time outside Roland Garros, Svitolina is guaranteed to face another big hitter in the fourth round after the reigning French Open champion and No.13 seed Jelena Ostapenko took out the unseeded Camila Giorgi later in the day.
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