By Ros Satar

  • Elina Svitolina [4] def. Simona Halep [1] 6-0 6-4
  • Rafael Nadal [1] def. Alexander Zverev [2] 6-1 1-6-6-3
ROME, ITALY – Elina Svitolina backed up her win last year with an even more convincing performance against World No. 1 Simona Halep, Rafael Nadal beat Alexander Zverev to claim an eighth title.

 

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Elina Svitolina [4] def. Simona Halep [1] 6-0 6-4

Elina Svitolina in the second round of the Porsche Tennis Grand prix, WTA Stuttgart

Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine in action at the 2018 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix

No. 4 seed and defending champion Elina Svitolina underlined her right to be considered as one of the favourites going into Roland Garros with an emphatic defence of her title against the World N. 1 Simona Halep.

With precision, and making the most of a slow starting Halep, Svitolina raced through the first set in 19 minutes without the loss of a game, and although Halep started to get herself a lot more involved in the second set, she always erred on the side of fragile.

She said, in her post match press conference: “It was a really good match from my side. I think I dominated all the match. I was trying to put lots of pressure on Simona with my game, tried to really take the ball early and to open the court.”

“It worked really good today,” Svitolina continued. “I was feeling good, and I think it was good match for me.”

Simona Halep after the quarter-final of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, WTA Stuttgart 2018

Simona Halep of Romania walks off the court after her quarter-final match at the 2018 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix

While you cannot count out Halep, who holds on to the World No. 1 spot going into Roland Garros, it was a frustrating time for her coach Darren Cahill, who wanted to see more fight from her. In the past she has struggled to stop giving herself a hard time, although in recent times she has been able to shake herself out of the funk a little quicker, but not this time.

Halep said, after the match: “[Svitolina] was solid. It was a good match made by her, and she deserved to win, for sure.”

We are used to seeing battles between them on the clay – bit three setters, and both come in for unfair criticism of their “failure” to get the results on the Slam stage, but this could be the year that all changes. The expectation will be increased on both of them this year, and it will be fascinating to see if they can rise up to the challenge.

 

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Rafael Nadal [1] def. Alexander Zverev [2] 6-1 1-6-6-3

In an amazing spin of momentum amongst the Rome raindrops Rafael Nadal came from 2-3 down in the decider to reel off the next four games to deny Alexander Zverev a second Rome Masters title, and leaving the German 1-2 in Masters finals this year.

Alexander Zverev in the semi-final of the ATP Mutua Madrid Open, 2018

Alexander Zverev in the semi-final of the ATP Mutua Madrid Open, 2018 | JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)

It all looked as though it would be a run of the mill match for Nadal as he blasted through the first set, after Zverev broke in the opening game, before Nadal won the next six games on the bounce to wrap up the first set.

It was enough to fire Zverev up as he level the match with a commanding performance in the second set, 6-1. He went on the break at the start of the second set amidst rain delays, but on the resumption after the second break his rhythm had gone, whereas the break had helped Nadal, as he swiftly broke twice before winning title No. 8 at the Foro Italico.

While Nadal remains the overwhelming favourite for Paris, we have seen signs of vulnerability. His loss to Dominic Thiem came on a surface at altitude where he admitted he had less control of the balls. Novak Djokovic emerged as a real challenger to Nadal for the first time since his comeback.

But we have seen what Zverev could be capable of and Thiem, who is playing right to the run-up to Roland Garros, could be the heirs apparent.

Stay tuned for our build-up to Roland Garros, which takes place between 27 May to 10 June.

 

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