Elina Svitolina of Ukraine moved one step closer to defending her finals crown with a straight-sets 7-5, 6-3 win over world Number 5 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep of Romania in their purple group round-robin clash at the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen on Wednesday.
Their head-to-head coming into the match was equally split, with four wins each in eight meetings, and the Romanian having won their two most recent clashes at Wimbledon and in Doha.
Svitolina started off strong, making short work of her opening service, with a hold to love in just two minutes. She broke Halep’s first service by employing solid groundstrokes from the baseline, and held her next service with the help of 5 unforced errors from the Romanian, principally off the backhand side in the form of crosscourt and down the line shots sent deep, reports Xinhua news agency.
Halep’s deep shots continued in her second service game, but she managed to hold with the help of a pair of unforced errors from the Ukrainian. Svitolina’s unforced errors kept rolling out on her service at 3-1, as Halep broke back to reduce her arrears to one game point.
A long rally on Simona’s service at 3-2 showed off some incredible baseline shooting from both sides. Despite Halep netting an unforced error off a backhand volley, she managed to hold and pull level.
Halep brought Svitolina to break point on her service at 3-all, but was unable to convert due to a couple of nasty unforced errors including a forehand down the line sent entirely too deep that she unsuccessfully challenged.
Both players then served out all the way to 6-5 for the Ukrainian, with exchanges characterized by long rallies often decided at the net.
Svitolina got the decisive break to seal the first set off some abysmal second service shooting from Halep and still more unforced errors in the form of deep shots from baseline. In all, Halep coughed up 21 unforced errors to only 10 winners on the way to dropping the opening set in just under an hour.
Halep then went a break up, but started to slip on her next service with a pair of netted unforced errors handing Svitolina a break of her own.
Svitolina demonstrated excellent control of her shots in getting a crucial second break and then staved off two break points on her final service to close out the match in one hour, 40 minutes.