Elina Svitolina made her way into the semifinals for the first time at the Western & Southern Open Friday afternoon. The top ranked Ukrainian defeated Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 on Grandstand court at the Linder Family Tennis Center.
This was the second time both players have been at each other with Safarova looking to even the score. She faced the Ukrainian back in March where the 20 year old edged her in straight sets at Indian Wells. In what kick started her success this season, Svitolina had been climbing up the ranks with tremendous aggression. Her speedy movements across court and solid accuracy give her another chance at making the semis for the first time.
Safarova had been finding her path cut short in the last few tournaments that included her round four loss to Coco Vanderweghe at Wimbledon. Showing every effort to perform a full court press, the Czech has always been trounced by her opponent, struggling to get back at it. With Svitolina on a very high and strong stretch, Safarova would look to make a break early or face the same struggles she has been seeing.
She made a strong statement early against Svitolina remaining close through four games that left the two in a stalemate. The Ukrainian made her push away in Game Five with a two double break point victory before winning a second straight on serve. Safarova held a strong serve in the seventh to climb back within one of Svitolina. The gap went back to two games as the Ukrainian won Game Eight to play for the set on Safarova’s shot.
It was not meant to be as both girls had problems controlling the rally that led Svitolina to wait another moment for her chance to win. Safarova had her worst serve of the match but somehow won the game to press toward a tie and the extension of the set.
During the changeover, Safarova had a word with her coach on some tips to improve while crawling closer. Svitolina denied her the chance, batting the ball like a pro to end the set in ten games with a 6-4 score ending it in 38 minutes. Svitolina averaged 70 percent on the serve with just five unforced errors and perfect in front presence. The downside for the Czech was the 21 unforced errors on mark that had her down a set.
She made up for lost ground playing hard on the opening serve to fight through deuce and hold firm on two breaks. Svitolina leveled up on her serve in the set nearly sweeping Safarova off her feet. It wouldn’t take anything from her game as she set the pattern into motion with the lead after three games. The Czech continued on with the lead after five before winning the next game that gave her a 4-2 lead on Svitolina.
Svitolina found herself in a huge whole for the first time this tournament causing a talk from coach Iain Hughes. Hughes strongly suggested Svitolina let go of the past few games and look to progress and force Safarova into a spot she can’t handle. Svitolina was on game point for a moment before Safarova rattled her into losing hold of the score to play deuce and ultimately lose the chance for a comeback in the set.
With the match anyone’s to win, the final set would be an opportunity to blast out to a lead or struggle to fight in a tightly contested set. Svitolina knew she had to win the first game after having a struggling serve and recording just two winners. In a show of force, she held Safarova two a point winning the opening game. Game Two was slightly different for Svitolina as she fought through three breaks landing a solid ace before watching the ball from Safarova fly wide of the court for a 2-0 mark.
The 20 year old had confidence in her step as she took another victory from Safarova winning on the double break. The Czech made a threat to get on the board during the fourth game challenging Svitolina on deuce, her strategy failed to work on the return end making it a four game skid. Svitolina was not being stopped in her quest to make it to the semifinals. She pushed back into the fifth game forcing deuce with the Czech before disappointing all her efforts with a big point to serve for the match.
It couldn’t have ended better for the Ukrainian as she took the game with perfection. A winner, an ace and two unforced errors did it all for her to be in the semifinals for the first time in her career playing in Cincinnati. “She’s a really tough lefty and its always tough to play against left handers, so I needed to adjust fast and it started really well was serving well and really happy I’m in semifinals,” Svitolina said during her on court interview.
She would go into the semifinals meeting against Serena Williams who had to play three sets to get past Ana Ivanovic. “She’s obviously a tough opponent to play against so ill try my best and see how it goes tomorrow. It’s a new day, a new girl so I’m looking forward to it.”