By Ros Satar at the Shiseido WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China
- Elina Svitolina  def. Karolina Svitolina  7-6 (12), 6-4
- Svitolina reveals motivation is to still win a title this year
- Pliskova not bowed by fourth straight loss to Svitolina
SHENZHEN, CHINA – Defending champion Elina Svitolina started her campaign with a tough win over Karolina Pliskova as the Purple Group started their round-robin runs.
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Defending champion Elina Svitolina found herself under early pressure dropping the first service game to Karolina Pliskova, who despite having a winning head to head over the Ukrainian, has lost the last three games to her on the bounce.
Svitolina kept her nerve to retrieve the break back early on with not much at all to separate them as they battled their way to the tie-break. There the drama really rose up a notch with mini-breaks being traded before Svitolina just edged ahead enough for her first set point. Two more chances came and went before Pliskova found herself on the end of a chance to take a one-set lead.
With Svitolina wrestling the advantage away once more, she was to squander three more chances before a couple of tired looking serves helped hand the Ukrainian the first set on her seventh try.
It looked as though the lost chances to gain more of a foothold in the tie-break was playing on Pliskova’s mind, with a long drawn out first game of the second set, with Pliskova dropping her serve on Svitolina’s fourth break point. With the encouraging words of coach Conchita Martinez ringing in her ears, they took immediate effect as the Czech redressed the balance to give herself a fighting chance.
While Pliskova was trying to shorten the points and stop Svitolina from getting into her rhythm, she found herself being pushed back more and more, giving up her serve one more time for Svitolina to nudge ahead with a break advantage again.
Pliskova held on to her serve to at least ask the serve-it-out question of the defending champion, with a flurry of hope as she had two break points to make things interesting, but Svitolina emerged with the opening win.
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Svitolina: Trophy is her biggest motivation
In a year that has been beset with injuries, it has been a strange mix of results for Svitolina. Where she could always be relied upon for a number of titles in the year, but perhaps a disappointing set of results at the Slam, this year she made back to back semi-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open, but as yet no title in 2019.
She said: “I think biggest motivation is to get the trophy this year. This is my last chance. Yeah, I try to win as many matches as I can. That’s the biggest motivation for me.
“I always try to bring my best game. Just to be here it’s already amazing achievement for everyone. Everyone is a champion.”
Pliskova: ‘I’m not going to be scared from playing her again’
For Pliskova, this is a fourth straight defeat to the Ukrainian, cutting her head to head lead to just one. Svitolina has been a consistent fixture at the top of the rankings but seems to have unlocked something in her matches with Pliskova.
She said: “I think I became more complete player. I started to play much better. I’m mentally stronger. I don’t really think about those head-to-heads. I know I’m more consistent now than the game what I was before when we were playing. I think that’s what’s gives me those wins.”
Pliskova did not necessarily agree, saying: “I think she didn’t change, well, anything because she’s still playing the same game. I think it’s just every time what we played the last matches, we played last year Singapore, she won, and here. I think the surface is better for her than me. Even today, even last year, it was about couple of points.
“I don’t feel like I lost last four matches. I’m not going to be scared from playing her again because I feel every time I’m going to have my chances, so it’s always going to be about me.”
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