Svitolina edges Halep for the Rome title – Roland Garros now tantalisingly wide open

 

By Ros Satar, in Rome

  • Elina Svitolina [8] def., Simona Halep [4] 4-6 7-5 6-1
  • Svitolina projected to return to the Top 10
  • Tops the WTA Porsche Race to Singapore
ROME, ITALY – the storms of the last couple of days were forgotten as Elina Svitolina shone to edge favourite Simona Halep to the Internazionali BNL d’Italia title.

 

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Elina Svitolina [8] def., Simona Halep [4] 4-6 7-5 6-1

It is fair to say that everyone’s favourite going into the final was the Madrid champion Simona Halep. She had been impressive in Spain, and was equally in top form in Rome – dropping just one set coming into the third round, but looking in command.

Her admission that she had to change her attitude back in Stuttgart and her form on the clay since the Fed Cup tie against Great Britain in Romania had marked her out not only as the favourite to win two back-to-back WTA Premier titles, but also marked her as surely one of the favourites for Roland Garros, starting in less than a week,

So said the script as Halep started the brighter if the two, putting pressure on Elina Svitolina before finally getting her breakthrough with two quick breaks in succession. Svitolina gave her a moment of pause by breaking back after Halep had a nasty turn on her ankle, but she steadied the ship to grab the first set.

It looked as though the second set was going the way of the first with an immediate break for Halep, but it was the first of many as the momentum swung first one way, then the next. They would trade breaks three times before finally Svitolina closed out the second set.

Halep would later explain that: “At 5-3 in the second set, when I turned to hit inside out forehand, then I felt again. That’s why I called to tape it, because I was scared not to do something worse.

“I never like to give up during the match. I don’t want to stop the matches. So I just wanted to try to win the second set. I couldn’t. So then it was too bad to go through. So I said that it’s better to calm down.”

It became clear in the third set as Svitolina roared into 5-0 lead that this was not one that Halep was going to make a miraculous escape, saving face and at least avoiding a bagel.

Svitolina told reporters, after the match: “I needed to be patient, first of all, because she gets lots of balls back, makes you miss, like, some easy shots when you’re under pressure. So this is her game. She really dominates sometimes very, like, playing very strong. Then I needed to be patient and waiting for my opportunity and then do something with it.

“So this was the goal. In the first set I was a bit struggling. As I said, I hurt my groin couple days ago and was struggling, as well. Yeah, it’s good that I recover a bit quicker and had my physio here.

“Actually, I didn’t play so bad in the first set. Just one, two balls that in the end changed the set. But I was trying to get back into the game.”

For Svitolina it is a return to the Top 10 which she reached after winning her first WTA Premier 5 title in Dubai, but she highlighted the fact that sometimes knowing that can be more pressure than going out there to win a title in the first place.

“This one was more about trying to go for it, like, staying in the moment and staying positive with my game.

“But in Dubai was completely different. I was in hell, I can tell you this, because when they announce that just before the match that I’m going to reach a top 10 for me was — you know, I was, like, I know, I know on this already. It was something very special. But, yeah, this tournament means a lot, as well, for my confidence on clay court.”

Regardless of whether Halep feels a little bruised when it comes to coming in as a favourite surely most of the Top 10 players ought to consider themselves with a chance when it comes to Roland Garros.

Halep smiled as she batted away suggestions that she was a favourite and felt that there could be 15 players in contention. Svitolina also maintained she could not name one, but was under no doubts that preparing now for the big titles was an obvious next step for her.

“I will try to do it, because I have been working with my coach. We was just speaking about it, about preparation that I can do, you know, to prepare differently for a Grand Slam.

“Of course during the season, play less tournaments because now I’m almost each week playing, like, lots of matches. Also, because it also damage sometimes your mental part and your physical part in a Grand Slam, when you need to be there, like, 100%. Yeah, just takes time for me.”

The French Open takes place between 28 May – 11 June.

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