Svitolina storms into semis
Sixth seed dumps defending champion Wozniacki and joins Pliskova in last four
Elina Svitolina produced one of the best performances of her career to overcome defending champion Caroline Wozniacki 5-7 ,7-5, 6-3 in a pulsating round-robin encounter last night and reach the last four of the WTA Finals with a spotless 3-0 record.
Earlier in the day, Karolina Pliskova became the first woman to advance when the big-hitting Czech curbed her attacking instincts to beat compatriot Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-4 and record her second win against a single loss in White Group play.
By winning her opening two matches, Svitolina needed only to take one set off the Danish world No. 3 to advance and, after playing so brilliantly all week, the Ukrainian proved equal to the task.
"It was an amazing match as Caroline always brings the best out of you, to really push yourself, so I have to thank her for making me push my limits," Svitolina said in a post-match interview after handing Wozniacki her second loss of the week.
"I am more mature now, so it was all about staying calm and fighting for every ball."
Wozniacki and Svitolina are both excellent counter-punchers with supreme athletic ability and, after trading blows from the baseline initially, the Dane mixed up her shots brilliantly to forge a set-winning break in the 11th game.
The contest had effectively become a one-set shoot-out for a semi-final spot and Wozniacki showed the class that swept her to victory in Singapore a year ago and the Australian Open title in January to move ahead with an early break in the second.
Back came Svitolina, however, stepping in from the baseline to take the ball earlier as she broke immediately.
Neither player was willing to budge an inch as the set appeared destined for a tie-break, until Svitolina fashioned five set-points in an epic 12th game, sealing her place in the last four when Wozniacki sent a backhand long.
Svitolina celebrated winning the set as if she had won the match, fist-pumping and roaring towards her box, the Ukrainian carrying the momentum forward and needing just a single break of serve in the deciding set to finish top of the group.
In the earlier match, Pliskova stayed calm and focused to record a first triumph over her compatriot in four attempts.
Kvitova had lost her opening two matches and knew that only a straight-set win would give her any chance of advancing.
However, she lacked movement and coughed up a slew of double-faults to slip 4-0 behind in the blink of an eye as Pliskova pounced on every opportunity.
Slowly but surely, Kvitova worked her way back into the contest, rallying twice from 40-0 down to win back-to-back games in the middle of the set that finally gave Pliskova something to think about.
Pliskova's coach Rennae Stubbs urged her to stay disciplined in the next changeover, and the Czech heeded the advice to curb her attacking instincts as she ended Kvitova's tournament by holding serve to take the opener in 41 minutes. - REUTERS
- Doubles quarter-final: 1.30pm: Dabrowski/Xu v Babos/ Mladenovic
- Singles round-robin: 4pm: Osaka (x3) v Bertens (x8) 7.30pm: Kerber (x1) v Stephens (x5)
- Followed by doubles quarter-final:Barty/ Vandeweghe v Mertens/Schuurs