In a first ever encounter on hard courts, the number five seed, Elina Svitolina will take on the number nine seed, Venus Williams in a blockbuster third round encounter at the Rogers Cup on Thursday. Both are well in contention for the WTA Finals in Singapore and the winner of this match will advance to their first quarter-final in Toronto.
Svitolina d. Kasatkina, 7-6(4) 6-4 (R2)
In a closely contested match, Kasatkina was often the more positive of the pair, but Svitolina was a touch more solid in the key moments and won through in two tight sets. Kasatkina produced alternating spells of positive and erratic play, the latter prevailing in the first set tiebreak. It wasn’t a classic first set from Svitolina by any means as she twice failed to serve out the set. The Ukrainian player also appeared to to be overforcing from too far back when trying to be aggressive. One thing you can always rely on with Svitolina though is that she will compete hard and chase balls down from the baseline, and that helped her to nick the opener.
Kasatkina looked to be well on her way to leveling up the match with a 4-0 lead in the second set. Sadly, Kasatkina seemed to run out of steam as a very steady, Svitolina reeled off a virtual bagel with six straight games. Overall, a solid win for Svitolina in her first match since Wimbledon, which brings up another opportunity to improve in the next round.
V.Williams d. Siniakova, 7-5 7-5 (R2)
Williams overcame an admirable effort from Siniakova who gave everything and then some, in particular during a stirring second set. Early doors, this looked set to be a quick one. Williams quickly went up a double break in the first set as Siniakova was going after her shots, but with little purpose. The Czech player soon found her stride and got both breaks back, levelling up at 5-5 thanks to a stunning passing shot winner on break point. Williams, who was excellent behind her first serve and was generally eager to come forward, refocused to win the final two games of the set.
The second set went mostly with set although Siniakova faced many challenges to stay afloat. The Czech player produced some sensational tennis down break point, saving five break points at 3-3 and two more at 4-4, showcasing power and touch in abundance. Just as impressive, Williams didn’t allow the missed break points to be a turning point in the match as she reacted on both occasions with emphatic love holds. Eventually, Williams made the breakthrough on her ninth break point of the set at 5-5 and served out the win. The American was erratic at times in the first set, but was much steadier in the second set and was surprisingly unphased by missed opportunities.
Head-to-head record: In their only previous meeting back in 2015, Williams beat Svitolina on the clay courts of Rome, 6-4 6-3.
Interesting stat: Both have enjoyed excellent records on the hard courts so far this year – Svitolina has a 21-4 W-L record while Williams is at 16-4.
Final thoughts: There is little data to go on for this match as the pair have played just once before and we are so soon into the summer hard court season. While Svitolina relied mostly on defence and scrapping from behind the baseline in her win over Kasatkina, it seemed like she was just feeling her way back into action. The Ukrainian player has demonstrated many times this year that she can made significant improvements match-by-match at a tournament. Williams’s level has been up and down during her first two matches, but she has ultimately pulled through. The serve has looked decent, often an indicator of how she is feeling physically, and Williams was forced to play to a high level in her second round win against Siniakova.
The slower courts should suit Svitolina with her ability to chase every ball down. However, I would fancy Williams’s game to match up pretty well to Svitolina’s based on the lethal first serve and her proactive game with a desire to come forward.