Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova advanced to the semi-finals of the 2018 WTA Finals in Singapore after contrasting wins on the final day of round robin action from the white group. Pliskova confirmed her place in the last four with a straight sets win, 6-3 6-4, over Petra Kvitova. The final match from the group featured Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki with Wozniacki needing to win in straights to knock out Svitolina. Perhaps i’m in a good mood because the weekend is nearly upon us (😃😃😃) but this was by far and away my favourite match of the week.
There have been so many competitive matches this week which has been super to see and hardly surprising with no clear favourites for the title at the start of the week. While competitive, nothing has really gripped me until this match. For me what stood out was Wozniacki and Svitolina both managing to play high quality tennis for the most part, whereas many matches this tournament have featured twists and turns, and inconsistencies with just fleeting moments when two players have been playing well at the same time. Svitolina came from a set down to complete a clean sweep of the white group and beat Wozniacki, 5-7 7-5 6-3 in two hours and 35 minutes.
It was refreshing to watch these two characteristically defensive players both be aggressive. It was actually the decisive factor of the match – the player that was more aggressive and generally dictated was the one that had most success. It was a bit of a surprise to see on this court which generally has favoured defensive play.
Wozniacki started the match in superb form. I’d go as far to say that the first set and a half was the best i’ve seen Wozniacki play all year. It reminded of Singapore last year where she was noticeably aggressive, going after her groundstrokes and taking risks. It was also nice to see Wozniacki look to come forward and this was an effective tactic. The slice winner that Woz hit (see below) after one of the best rallies of the match blew my mind! Svitolina erased Wozniacki’s early break in the first set but ultimately missed too many returns as Wozniacki stepped it up again to win the opener, 7-5.
Svitolina wasn’t playing a bad match by any means. The Ukrainian player remained in the hunt and started to dictate more of the rallies in the second set. Wozniacki began to retreat behind the baseline and show fragility on the forehand side. It was a thrilling and tense finish as we knew that the winner of the second set would decide who would qualify for the semi-finals – perfect for the neutrals and probably hellish for fans of either player! Wozniacki served to stay in the tournament at *5-6 in the second set. Svitolina missed four set points, clearly showing tension, but kept plugging away and eventually sealed the set and a place in the semi-finals on her fifth set point. Cue a wild reaction. It felt more like a match point.
Svitolina scored the lone break of the third set off some Wozniacki backhand errors and with a return winner on break point. Svitolina managed to serve out the match at *5-3, fending off one last aggressive charge from Wozniacki as she saved four break points. Generally it felt like Wozniacki backed off a bit and we didn’t see as many net charges in the second half of the match. Great match and both came away with positive winners to unforced errors which is a rarity on this court.
This was my favourite match from the Wozniacki-Svitolina H2H, which has never really done much for me in the past. I think both players have improved with each match this week. Svitolina’s performance level has been night and day compared to what she’s produced over the last few months. Svitolina has been so determined all week and almost wanting to prove a point. She spoke in her press conference about help from a “mysterious man”! Both press conferences were heavy and newsworthy with Wozniacki revealing that she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis during the US Open. It was the most honest and heartfelt press conference i’ve seen from Wozniacki and it was very refreshing to see her really open up. Now knowing this information, her win in Beijing must have been hugeeee for her.
Svitolina and Pliskova move through to Saturday’s semi-finals where they will play the top two from the red group, which will be decided on Friday. It could be a day for calculators with possible permutations involving the percentage of games. A pair of polls are linked below for the final two round robin matches where Naomi Osaka will take on Kiki Bertens and Sloane Stephens plays Angelique Kerber.