Shenzhen (China), World No. 8 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine prevailed in the longest tie-break of the season to beat No. 2 Czech Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (12), 6-4 in their purple group round-robin clash at the 2019 Shiseido WTA Finals here on Monday.
The first set was a very closely fought affair with neither player giving much away in what amounted to a battle of attrition, but it was the Czech who was stronger out of the gate. Pliskova broke Svitolina’s opening service, fighting her to deuce with aggressive cross-court forehands, and was helped along by a netted unforced error from Svitolina.
Pliskova then held serve to go 2-0 with an all-court push that included a beautiful forehand volley at the net showcasing just how dangerous the Czech can be when she uses the whole court to her advantage, reports Xinhua news agency.
Svitolina’s conservative style of play began to work just as well as Pliskova’s aggression had earlier. She held serve and got a break of her own to pull level, helped by a succession of double-faults from the Czech.
Svitolina stuck to the baseline with solid cross-court and down the line forehands, an approach that paid off in the form of only eight unforced errors in the first set.
Pliskova was stronger on serve, firing off three aces in the second half of the first set, but their effect was blunted by a series of double-faults that handed Svitolina the momentum at key points. What resulted was a battle of attrition that saw the players fight to 6-all with neither facing break point.
The tie-break was just as closely fought as the regular play, but it was Svitolina who seemed to be letting it slip away initially. She surrendered six set points, but was helped by yet another double fault (the fifth of the first set) from Pliskova, giving her the breathing room to seal the deal with a perfectly placed forehand down the right service line.
The first point of the second set gave the impression that the spectators at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center were in for another nail biter, but another series of slip-ups from Pliskova proved to be what was actually in store. The Czech faced four break points on the way to dropping the opening game off her sixth double fault of the match.
Although Pliskova would go on to get a break of her own to level at 2-all, it was clear that she had not altered her overly aggressive approach that led to her dropping the opener. She coughed up 16 unforced errors, double the number of her opponent, who stuck to the same baseline approach that helped her break the stalemate in the first set.
Svitolina kept the clutch at key moments to go up another break at 4-3, and never faced a break point until serving for the match at 5-4.
Pliskova looked as if she might just force a decider with several spectacular returns, but in the end, these were not enough to push her past a steady Svitolina.
The result is Svitolina’s fourth consecutive win against Pliskova.