A third time was not a charm for Alison Riske who found herself on the losing end again. Elina Svitolina turned a bad second set to sweep the third and win 6-2, 4-6, 6-0 at the Western & Southern Open late Monday night.
It has only been ten days since the two last met at Stanford in a three set battle that went in favor of the Ukrainian in the third set. She still holds the advantage as the 20 year old has been hot from Stanford but was in much need of rest during her quick exit in the opening round at the Canadian Masters. Now that she had six days of rest, her opportunity for a second consecutive win on the American looked bright.
Riske has played half of her last ten matches to their full potential winning just two of them. With Svitolina holding two wins that both went three sets, the American would have to show some better strength in order to get an upset early in the tournament.
The late start to their opening game sparked the rivalry between the two players as Svitolina pressed Riske into deuce marking a chance to win on the break. She did so after three breaks ending the eight minute battle. As Svitolina got rolling with the ball, her early aggression scored her a second straight where Riske fired the ball wide of the court. In order to change the pace of the game, Riske tried to play a set of tricks against the 20 year old but they backfired as the fast runner for returns answered with net front presence that made it 3-0.
Riske made another attempt at ending the fun for the youthful Svitolina. While returning on the Ukrainian’s serve, the American forced deuce, dug in, and won the fight after a pair of breaks to make her point on the scoreboard. Svitolina and Riske kept the set at full pressure where there was little room for error playing one another. It led to their fifth draw on deuce that Svitolina won in a short break causing a meeting between Riske and her coach.
The pep talk didn’t change the course of moves on the court nor did it affect the score as Svitolina took another step away from the American to play for the set at 5-1. Riske continued to pursue each point in order to stave off the sets conclusion. She did so on a really fast rally where Svitolina missed a step and couldn’t get shot on it watching it land into the net.
The Ukrainian was no longer in the mood to allow more wins to fall in the hands of her opponent. Wasting no time to lock up the set in 45 minutes, Svitolina performed strongly on court allowing the American a point in Game Eight. Although she had a low first serve percentage, 11 of 15 shots scored including 6 of 13 from her second serve were the only keys to her victory on offense. Defensively, the Ukrainian was at average putting great use of her speed.
Riske made the second set start different, as she was the one to strike on the board first. Svitolina’s strong aggression got out of hand causing the unforced error. She once again handed Riske another win on a shot hit long from the baseline indicating a possible change in tide. Before Svitolina could do anything to respond, she found herself down 3-0 with the ground between the two only getting larger. Ian Hughes came out to talk to Svitolina and calm her down to get her back in it while it was early. She went back on serve where she used her ability to run the ball her way causing Riske to take different attempts she wasn’t used it. It would take her some time to adjust while the margin cut down to a game.
It was all back to square in Game Six as Svitolina looked to have all the momentum while the American tried to find a way to stop her. She would do so in Game Seven edging her through another break on deuce snapping her three game winning streak. With both players near the end of the set the chance for Svitolina to press another tie would come in Game Eight. Her shot on serve just gave her enough to win the game point and tie it once more.
Riske made a huge difference in the set that had Svitolina behind. The American was still the first to break ahead in a tie putting her in the best spot to play for he set. After winning Game Nine, Riske was on the verge of tying the match with Svitolina in control. The set closed with Svitolina losing composure on deuce to be forced in a pivotal third set. Riske had 13 winners against the Ukrainian while serving below 50 percent. Given the set took 52 minutes the American showed tremendous power to not get kicked out of the tournament.
Her will blew away like the wind in the third set as she could not find her grip on serve letting Svitolina charge out to a 4-0 rout. Riske’s third chance on serve was the lucky charm as she banged out a 40-0 lead when it suddenly vanished. Svitolina rallied back to force deuce stealing the game to serve for the match.
Looking to seal the deal with a bagel, Svitolina had to put plenty of effort to win on match point that had her once again besting the American. The match went past midnight to end just three minutes into Tuesday morning. “It was a long time before we were waiting for our match and glad that people stuck around to watch us,” Svitolina said during her on court interview.
The match went two hours and five minutes in their third time playing this long with Riske playing strong despite being on the losing end. “Alison was playing great in the second set,” Svitolina said. “She was definitely raising her level and didn’t miss much. I wish I could have served better on 5-4 but I’m really happy that I could win the third set and I was playing great.”