By Ros Satar, in Singapore
- Elina Svitolina  def. Petra Kvitova  6-3 6-3
- Svitolina lays down a marker to those who criticised her place here
SINGAPORE – Elina Svitolina stunned Petra Kvitova in the first match of the WTA Finals, 2018 before calling out ‘haters’ who felt she did not belong here.
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Elina Svitolina  def. Petra Kvitova  6-3 6-3
Any memories lingering of a less than great campaign in 2017 were quickly erased from Svitolina’s mind as the pair started edgily. Svitolina broke first but Kvitova pegged her straight back. Throughout the first set the Ukrainian looked the more adventurous while Kvitova seemed to take a while to warm up to the supposedly faster conditions.
Kvitova found herself fending off a couple more break points and a couple of games later Svitolina was rewarded for her persistence. That momentum clearly stayed with her, as she broke a misfiring Kvitova to take the first set.
The second set saw a lot more fire as Kvitova was made to work hard for every and any point, and looked to be turning the tired, putting Svitolina under some pressure, but she fended off the three threats to her serve. That was about as close as Kvitova came to a flurry of resistance in the match, as Svitolina struck for a break to lead 4-2.
For a brief instance we wondered if Svitolina would get a little tight with the finish line in sight, but as Kvitova clattered a shot wide, it was a real marker set by Svitolina that last year’s somewhat lacklustre performance was a distant memory.
It was a far cry from the Kvitova who impressed on her debut, going 3-0 in the group stages. Also given the depth in this group, this ought to have been the one match she could win as her other group matches will only get harder.
“I think I didn’t play that bad, as the score looked like, but I did have those chances when I had like 30-Love on her serve. I just couldn’t make it. Those two, three games, was probably kind of key to break it or turn it around. I was just not able to do that.
“She served pretty well in those times, as well, but I think that she really played very consistent. She didn’t give me anything for free. It was pretty difficult to have those winners. Of course, that I make some easy mistakes, but it’s just part of my game. I knew that I have to go forward, to play more aggressive. I tried a few volleys, which I think was probably good today. So maybe I could go more often to the net.
“But overall, yeah, wasn’t the best start, but the good thing is that there is still a chance to play better and to improve and maybe go somewhere forward.”
Given that Svitolina’s season had been so standout, it seemed a real misnomer that she performed so badly at the season’s end. Having mentally prepared herself to be at the head of the field for Zhuhai, perhaps that feeling translated to a looser swing of the Ukrainian’s racquet.
However, the effort to get here perhaps took more out of her than most imagined as she took a turn in the middle of press, feeling faint and needing a few moments to steady herself before a truncated end to the press conference, but not before she fired a parting shot at those who doubt her ability to belong at the top.
She said, after the match: “I think last year I was really like too nervous, and it was the first time here. Even today I was. It’s normal to have nerves and in this kind of tournament.
“But you have to just take one point at a time and play here your best. That’s what I did today, and I think, of course, I had the nerves and I think Petra, as well, and everyone here, you know. It’s the part of tennis. But I’m happy the way I did it today.
“Winning this match, definitely gives me lots of confidence. I mean, this win definitely now I want to take, you know, as one to go forward, and for all those probably people and haters that were saying, you know, that I don’t deserve to be here and I’m, you know, not good (smiling). So, yeah, I think until the next match I can really enjoy this win.”
Svitolina will face Karolina Pliskova on Tuesday, not before 9pm (2pm BST).
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