Angelique Kerber v Elina Svitolina: WTA Dubai 2017, Semi-Final Preview


In a tenth career meeting and a fourth encounter in the last six months, Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina will square off in the second of the semi-finals at the Dubai Duty Free Championships on Friday.

The number one seed, Angelique Kerber came into Dubai with a 4-4 W-L record and having won just one match at this tournament in five previous attempts; the German player has enjoyed her best week of the year so far with straight set wins over Mona Barthel (6-4 6-3), Monica Puig (6-2 6-3) and Ana Konjuh (6-3 6-2). In her quarter-final win over Konjuh, Kerber improved significantly as the match wore on. While she only hit one winner in the first set, it was more than enough – Konjuh produced some flashy backhands but was largely subdued, lacking consistency off the ground and on serve.

The second set was much improved from both players. Kerber found her mojo and was hitting the ball with conviction off both wings, particularly the forehand side. By the end, there were shades of Kerber’s 2016 form including an incredible point up at the net with a right-handed instinct volley. Konjuh played a better set but so did Kerber, and the world number two finished the match off in style. World number two could become world number one again with a title in Dubai.

Svitolina played her best match of the week to book her place in the Dubai semi-finals with a 6-0 6-4 victory over an inconsistent, Lauren Davis. The American had come from a set down in all three matches she played this week but couldn’t repeat the feat on this occasion. Svitolina tore through the first set in just 21 minutes and despite being pegged back on several occasions in the second set, always looked in control. Svitolina was 100% on first serve points won in the first set and always looked capable of breaking Davis’s serve, which she did six out of eight times.

Svitolina’s shots had more purpose about them compared to her first two matches in Dubai and she seemed to have the confidence to come forward to the net. It wasn’t always successful but I appreciated the effort! Davis did have her chances to break back with Svitolina serving at *4-3 in the second set but she missed a flurry of returns as her hopes faded fast. Svitolina served out the match to love with a confident hold of serve.

Head-to-head record: Kerber leads Svitolina, 5-4 in their head-to-head. Svitolina has won their last two matches in Beijing (6-3 7-5, 2016) and Brisbane (6-4 3-6 6-3, 2017). Svitolina’s win in Brisbane was a superb effort, playing Kerber at her own game and winning.

Interesting stat: Svitolina has now made back-to-back semi-finals in Dubai and also, is on a ten match winning streak extending back to the Australian Open.

Final thoughts: Both players have improved during the week and this paves the way for a sure-to-be intriguing match. I’ve been impressed with Kerber so far this week – she looks relaxed and has been mostly clutch in her matches so far. Her serve is holding up better than it has done all year and there have been flashes of forehand magic.

Svitolina has always proven to be a tricky match-up for Kerber because she likes to feed off pace which Svitolina doesn’t give her. Add to that, Svitolina’s looking at her resilient-best and capable of running for days, coupled with dashes of aggression as her confidence rises. For Svitolina, the Kerber match-up will be similar to her recent matches in Dubai while for Kerber, she’ll need to adapt quickly having played three big hitters this week.

I was mostly torn on this match-up – for me, the way that Kerber ended her quarter-final win over Konjuh with some decisive groundstrokes and confidence behind her serve has just tipped the scales in her favour.

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12 thoughts on “Angelique Kerber v Elina Svitolina: WTA Dubai 2017, Semi-Final Preview

  1. I maintain that Kerber can’t create magic, she can only redirect it. If Svitolina doesn’t try to be the aggressor and simply makes things awkward with deep, no pace groundstrokes and short angles, Kerber will be forced to trade… at that point it becomes fairly even.

    My reservations are that Svitolina may feel more pressure here, since she makes top ten if she wins.


    • Would she? if so, credit to you Andrew for always speaking up for Svitolina! 🙂 However, I slightly disagree with you. Kerber mostly redirects pace (and magic) but she has a way /feel/reflex in her hands to somehow bring the most awkward balls back (see this reflex volley). This is an undeniable talent and it’s what I like most about her. I agree on your analysis though. Svitolina would have a fair chance to win if she stays defensive without giving any pace. As soon as she is trying to be the aggressor, Kerber would have a fair chance to win.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I dont disagree with you about Kerbers skill. But it seems like she’s only as good as what’s played against her.
        It’s a bit of a rough deal for Svitolina. She either braves being aggressive and loses valiantly. Or she really goes passive and makes it a total slugfest and possibly wins but also gets blasted for her style of play.

        She actually needs to win the title to make top ten. But if she makes the final she’ll only be a hundred points behind Konta. She’ll lose her Kuala Lumpur points next week, but has virtually nothing to defend at Indian Wells or Miami, unlike Konta, Keys & Kuznetsova.


      • I still disagree but we cannot have the same opinion all the time 😉 Did you watch her second set against Kasatkina? in Doha? That was her aggressive own game style. I admit it’s not always there but when it’s there is amazing and great to watch (all without the opponent’s power).
        Mmh I don’t know whether she will be nervous or not? Rather not as she is *still* two wins away from the Top 10 spot? and she did win the last two against Kerber? I’m just curious to see how the match turns out, like if Svitolina or Kerber tries to be aggressive.


    • 😀 magic ?! Ok, Kerber is more of your defense against the dark arts. When you need that spell to hold your lines against an onslaught type. Or to ward off/protect against unwanted attacks. So there is magic in there. You want to wow, flashy, mesmerize, that is Radwanska. You need to battle, life depends on it, Serena. Maybe Pliskova if you need long range attacks. When you’re down and out, last spell, a ‘last Hurrah’ or ‘hail mary play’. Knowing it may work or not but whatever, that surely has to be Babz Strycova.
      CoCo’s magic is the kind you are often warned about. It is powerful when it works, but cant take you down with it.


  2. Svitolina already scored two wins over Kerber in their most recent head-to-head meetings. I think this match will go the distance to three sets. It’s tough to say, but the match could go either way. Definitely lots of breaks of serve too


  3. I think Svitolina has to be the one to take charge and be aggressive. Kerber will be Kerber and play her game. At this point, I’m not sure if being number one again is that much of a push for her as to winning these these ‘revenge’ type matches and winning tournaments. If top 10 is really Svitolina’s goal she should go for it.


    • Wow I totally disagree one hundred percent. Svitolina doesn’t have the firepower to hit past Kerber, she needs to outsmart her or grind her down. Svitolina hasn’t beaten Kerber four times in the past by being more aggressive, she’s won those matches the hard way.


    • Was replying to @Murphy’s suggestion of if either player has to be aggressive. ‘Aggressive’ as they can be cause neither player is a firepower player. Aggression in this sense is trying to take charge of the flow of play be it by smarts, tact or something else.
      It’s likely that as you mention, it may turn out to be a grind.


      • Those haven’t been her tactics in the matches she’s won against Kerber. She’s played high margin tennis. Not going for winners on the return but making every ball and ensuring every Kerber service game is a long one, keeping her court position neutral, rallying central and hitting groundstrokes back to where they were hit from and forcing Kerber to press an angle or redirect down the line. The only time she’s gone for winners is when Kerber is completely out of position.


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