WTA Rome 2017 Final Preview: Simona Halep vs. Elina Svitolina

The 2017 Internazionali BNL d’Italia final will be contested between the number six seed, Simona Halep and the number eight seed, Elina Svitolina. The pair haven’t played each other since 2014 and will both be vying for their first title in Rome.

Halep d. Bertens, 7-5 6-1

Halep is still on course for the Madrid-Rome double after a straight sets semi-final win over Kiki Bertens. Halep was always ahead in the first set and began the match in imperious form; however, Bertens settled down and began to make an impact with her aggressive game. Halep was unable to serve out the set at *5-4 after Bertens had saved five set points in her previous service game. As Halep was beginning to look on the ropes, Bertens was unable to capitalise. The Dutch player produced a pair of shaky games as Halep won the final two games to win the first set, 7-5.

Halep rolled through the second set, producing 93% of first serves in (!) and dropping just two points behind her serve. I always marvel at how Halep can change direction so effortlessly in rallies and she’s one of the best at doing it. She had to work hard in the first set and struggled at times to close out the points, but her steady and dynamic play more than outmatched Bertens’s big but erratic hitting.

Svitolina d. Muguruza, 4-1 ret.

The second semi-final unfortunately came to a premature ending as Garbiñe Muguruza was forced to retire after just five games. The Spaniard had sported strapping on her leg for the past few matches, but it was actually a neck injury (via WTA Insider) that forced her to pull out of this match. It is the fourth time this year that Muguruza has retired mid-match.

The last two games of this particular semi-final went to deuce with Svitolina producing a flurry of winners to win both of them. I’ve enjoyed watching this aggressive version of Svitolina and while there are some loose errors, it’s understandable as she looks to be more proactive on court.

Head-to-head record: Halep leads Svitolina, 2-0 in their head-to-head but the pair haven’t played since Fed Cup action in 2014 and never on clay.

Interesting stat: By virtue of her semi-final win (via Live Rankings), Svitolina will rise to number one in the WTA Race to Singapore!

Final thoughts: Halep is having a sensational run on the clay and whatever result in this final, will go into Roland Garros as one of the leading contenders. She has looked both solid and dynamic from the baseline, and her serve has been holding up well. One thing I noted during the Madrid final is that Halep has to work so hard to win points as she does tend to battle from the baseline – if she can continue to improve her net game and coming forward, she would be an unstoppable force! Still, Halep is dominating on the clay this year and she has reacted positively to setbacks, not allowing herself to lose focus if things don’t go to plan.

Svitolina suffered a surprising early loss in Madrid last week but has had a good week in Rome, battling through two tight second set tiebreaks against Cornet and Pliskova, to find herself in yet another big final. The Ukrainian player is reaping the benefits of a more aggressive gameplan on court and has looked more mentally assured of herself in the key moments. A few eyebrows were raised when she opted to play the International event in Istanbul (which she won) last month over the star-studded Stuttgart tournament. While i’d like to see her back herself and play the bigger tournaments, the advantage is that she has plenty of match play on red clay and will now face the ultimate test against the in-form player on clay in Sunday’s final.

In summary, I think both players are quite evenly matched in their game style. Both move well, but I think Halep is the more natural mover on the clay. There will obviously be some fatigue from Halep’s side but I think she will be highly motivated to go into Roland Garros on the ultimate high.

I’d fancy this to go three sets and the edge, in my opinion, to Halep.

Photo in this post by mootennis.com

15 thoughts on “WTA Rome 2017 Final Preview: Simona Halep vs. Elina Svitolina

  1. One thing that I’ve noticed with Halep is that, like Kerber, when playing a more defensive player seems to go a bit too aggressive and makes a lot of errors, rather than trusting their own game and slugging it out.
    If Svitolina approaches this one like one of her Kerber encounters, drags it out with no pace groundstrokes deep down the middle and short angles out wide, she could tire Halep into making mistakes.

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  2. Needless to say, Kiki Mladenovic and Elina Svitolina are two very different creatures. I think Halep will have to play with more tact. It is an easier match-up for either player, Simona or Halep against straight up baseline hitters.

    Against each other, I think the grittier, grounded player will win. In my mind, I’m thinking Elina should let Halep be the aggressor and try to catch her off guard. She’ll have to run a tight ship on defense though and take the first set. Going for the underdog.

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  3. Notes—For top ranked players players playing in International events, I see 4 positives-(1) More match play against lower ranked players (2) A big boost in confidence if the player wins the tournament (3) A boost in attendance for the smaller events (4) The success of the smaller events leading to more multi-event weeks in the WTA. A player can also “forget” to enter the main event and enter the qualies (Gavrilova???).—–ATP Roger Federer at Pippa Middleton’s wedding, the Royalty is moving on up in the world.( i like the idea of the English Royal family–see no great harm and its a big tourist attraction.)

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  4. Both have speed, defensive and offensive plays. However, based on the court speed and conditions, Svito will take down Halep.

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  5. Simona’s been playing great tennis this week but she’s almost bound to be more tired than Elina, who didn’t have to play a full match yesterday. For that reason I think Elina, who’s also been playing well, will just edge it.

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  6. IMO flashes from the lighting legs of Halep will be the light that burns the brightest in the Rome finals.—–Interesting first round match in Strasbourg CSN vs Naomi Osaka.

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  7. Remember the result of the past of Halep and Svitolina :
    2013, Sofia , Bulgaria : Halep-Svitolina 6-1, 6-1
    2014, FedCup :Halep-Svitolina 6-3, 7-5.
    The journalists of tennis doing their job better !

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    • It is irrelevant for WTA tennis. Anyway, Halep lost…don’t give an excuse that she has an injury. Svitolina always has a very slow start and she is fitter than Halep.

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