Elina Svitolina continues her China Open campaign, and her quest for qualification for the season-ending WTA Finals on Monday when she plays home favourite, Yafan Wang in the second round.
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Reigning WTA Finals champion, Svitolina currently occupies the eighth and final spot in the WTA’s Race to Shenzhen, and can do with a strong performance in Beijing in her bid to earn the chance to defend the title she won so impressively in Singapore last season.
That Singapore success remains Svitolina’s most recent WTA title, as she has surprisingly failed to add to her collection so far this season. The Ukrainian is yet to make a final in 2019, with her best results being semi-finals in Doha, Dubai, Indian Wells, and most significantly, Wimbledon and the US Open. It’s quite ironic that she has recorded her best Grand Slam results in the season when she has not been at her best on the WTA Tour.
Svitolina’s form has also been affected by injuries- she suffered a knee problem in the Middle Eastern swing in February, and struggled in the latter part of the hard court season, and the clay-court campaign. She lost five of six opening round matches between the Miami Open and Eastbourne, and was an uncharacteristic 2-3 on clay.
She snapped out of that poor form by reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon, an expected outcome given the form she had shown in the lead up to the tournament, and her previous record at the All England Club, while she reproduced that run at the US Open, playing some magnificent tennis before coming unstuck against Serena Williams in the last four.
Svitolina’s form around those two major runs has been patchy- she has made a few quarter finals, but has not produced anything deep. She is playing for the fourth consecutive week in Asia, having also competed in Zhengzhou, Guangzhou and Wuhan.
The world No. 3 has not had the greatest Asian swing, as she was 4-3 heading into Beijing. She won just one match each in Zhengzhou and Guangzhou, where she retired with a right knee injury, but she was healthy enough to compete in Wuhan last week, scoring good wins over multiple major winners, Garbine Muguruza and Svetlana Kuznetsova before falling to an inspired Alison Riske in the quarter finals.
A semi-finalist in Beijing in 2016, Svitolina opened her 2019 campaign with a come-from-behind 6-7 6-1 6-2 victory over last year’s beaten finalist, Anastasia Sevastova, recovering from the loss of a tight first set to dominate the rest of the match, and set up a second round meeting with home favourite, Yafan Wang.
Chinese No. 4, Wang had lost her last three matches in Beijing, but she terminated that losing streak on Sunday, powering past compatriot, Xiyu Wang 6-1 6-2 in just 52 minutes.
Wang lost just four points on her first serve, saving all three break points she faced as she eased past her countrywoman to set up Monday’s meeting with Svitolina.
The 25-year-old is enjoying her career-best season, which has already yielded a maiden tour-level title in Acapulco, and a top-50 debut. The Chinese first broke into the top-100 in April last season, after a surprise run to the fourth round of the Miami Open, and she has maintained her top-100 status ever since, rising to a currently ranking of 48th. There have been bad patches along the way, but she has done enough to keep that ranking going in the right direction.
Apart from that title run in Acapulco, which first ushered her into the top-50, Wang has also made semi-finals in Shenzhen and Seoul, quarter finals in Hua Hin and Mallorca, while she repeated her fourth-round performance in Miami, beating Svitolina 6-2 6-4 along the way for her first top ten win, and only one so far.
Can she do an encore when she faces the Ukrainian for a second time on Monday?
“I’m sure [Wang is] going to be fired up and be ready for a fight,” said Svitolina. “For me, it’s important to recover from today’s match, and try to bring my good game for [the next round], and we’ll see how it goes.”
Elina Svitolina vs Yafan Wang is live from Beijing on Monday, 30 September from 5:00pm local time/ 10:00am BST