Simona Halep vs Elina Svitolina (0-6, 4-6)
Elina Svitolina put on a performance for the ages to defend her Italian Open title against World No.1 Simona Halep.
Most betting sites considered the World No.4 as the underdog heading into the match-up. After all, Halep appeared to be in fine form after taking down Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals.
However, just like last year’s Rome final when she was labelled as the second best, the 23-year-old Svitolina made no sense of the live betting odds and thrashed Halep in one could be said as one of the most forgettable displays from the Romanian all-rounder.
Highlights of the game
There’s not much story to tell after Svitolina produced a devastating brand of tennis. It’s almost the same as last year’s result—only this time, she needed just two sets, 16 games and 67 minutes to get things done.
Svitolina went on a rampage early on and took the first set without losing a game in a little over 19 minutes. Halep failed to get into her stride and was no match for the Ukrainian’s remarkable forehand.
After receiving some harsh words from coach Darren Cahill early in the match, Halep improved in the second set and was able to get on the scoreboard in the opening game. Nonetheless, it didn’t last long as the 26-year-old ended in a situation similar to what happened in the 2017 Rome final.
Last year, Halep was bothered by an injury after rolling her ankle. This time, she suffered from a back problem.
Down 2-3 in the second, Halep called a trainer before exiting the court to get treatment under a medical timeout.
“I was a little bit too stiff with my body and I couldn’t stay in the rallies,” Halep explained. “The muscles were stiff. I couldn’t run.”
Despite a strong fightback from Halep deep into the second, Svitolina held firm and denied her top-ranked opponent the Italian Open title for the second straight year.
“It’s amazing that I could come and defend my title here. It’s really something very special for me,” Svitolina said after the match.
Svitolina’s dominance was clear on the stat sheet as well. While she didn’t produce any service ace, she won more service points by a large margin. The Ukrainian star was brilliant with her return game as well, winning 49 percent of her return points compared to Halep’s 25 percent.
It also helped the reigning champion that Halep wasn’t at her best. In fact, the Romanian had 21 unforced errors throughout the match.
Svitolina, on the other hand, had 18 winners and committed only 14 unforced errors. She also never faced a break point in the contest as she breezed through to the title.
Halep, in her defence, explained that her physical condition was the result of her match with Sharapova during which she needed three long sets to book her ticket to the final.
“Every time I play against Sharapova the ball is coming very flat and I bend down a lot,” Halep said. “She [Svitolina] deserved to win for sure. She didn’t miss. I missed.”
With the win, Svitolina became the first woman to defend her title at Foro Italico since Serena Williams did it in 2013 and 2014. It’s the 12th title of her career and third this year, having won the Brisbane International and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
She now holds an impressive 12-2 record in WTA Finals, four of which were against World No.1 players. Svitolina also improved to 4-2 against Halep in their head-to-head meetings.
Meanwhile, for Halep, it’s another disappointing performance after failing to defend her title in Madrid. The best ranked female player has built an ugly reputation on the big stage, and this embarrassing showing won’t help her case.
Despite the defeat though, she would maintain the No.1 spot for another week after her closest chaser, Caroline Wozniacki, lost to Anett Kontaveit in the quarter-finals.
Next up for the two is the French Open at Roland Garros. Despite never making it past the quarter-finals at a major, Svitolina is now considered a favourite to win the tournament, thanks to her resounding victory.
Meanwhile, Halep has a lot of work to do re-establish her name on online gambling sites.
Svitolina, nonetheless, played down her top dog label and insisted that she will play in Paris one game at a time.
“I will try to take one match at a time, it’s very important in a grand slam,” Svitolina added. “It’s very tricky so we’ll see how it goes, but definitely I’m going to enjoy (going to) Roland Garros on a high note.”
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