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In Rogers Cup final, Svitolina beats Wozniacki at her own game

Sunday, August 13th, 2017 at 6:43 pm , filed under Tennis News by

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TORONTO – For a while, it was scratchy, nervy, cat-and-mouse tennis, with long yo-yoing rallies, acute angles, and a grab bag of paces and spins. It was punch and counterpunch, drop and lob, break and re-break. In the end, though, it was only Elina Svitolina – imposing her will, refusing to miss, blotting out the daylight, and finally hoisting her fifth WTA trophy of the year.

Svitolina ran away with the Rogers Cup championship match on Sunday by out-grinding one of the game’s best grinders, wearing Caroline Wozniacki down and ending the tournament with a title-clinching bagel.

Wozniacki had scrapped her way to the final by bedeviling some of the biggest hitters on tour, forcing them to hit extra balls and creating her own offense by redirecting their pace. But Svitolina put more air under her ball – hitting with more consistency and variety – and Wozniacki couldn’t find the same opportunities. When she tried to force the issue, the ball sailed on her. When she sat back and waited for Svitolina to miss, the Ukrainian took charge and burned her.

“It was a tough day,” Wozniacki said after the match. “She played well. She mixed up the pace and made it uncomfortable for me out there.

“Today probably I could’ve used some more pace. But she played really smart.”

The first set had been touchy, with lots of probing, tentative points in which neither player really hit through their shots and each seemed to dare the other to pull the trigger. They took turns dumping serve, and a fourth straight break seemed to be in the offing when Svitolina went down 0-30 while serving for the set at 5-4. But when push came to shove, she was able to flatten out her shots and amp up her aggression in a way Wozniacki could not. And after recovering to serve out the set, Svitolina started playing freer and looser, cleaner and meaner.

“Actually, I was very, very tired after the first game of the first set,” Svitolina said afterward, citing the quick turnaround after playing two matches on Saturday.

“I knew I that I needed to give everything because Caroline doesn’t miss much. You have to work really hard to get unforced errors from her. And I just decided, you know, I’m going to just play every ball and just leave everything on the court. And that’s why, emotionally, I was relieved when I won the first set and then was playing better and better in the second.”

If the first set was cat and mouse, the second was hammer and nail. Svitolina started pumping in strong first serves and painting the lines with aggressive approach shots. She varied her depth and pace – keeping Wozniacki off-balance and guessing – and took calculated risks that continually paid off. In short, she won the way Wozniacki had been winning all week.

On match point, Svitolina dragged her opponent across the baseline, clipping each sideline with forehands before Wozniacki sent a lunging lob just long.

The result continued a season-long trend for both players. For Svitolina, it was her tour-leading fifth title (and a record third Premier 5) in her fifth final. For Wozniacki, it was her sixth final, and sixth runner-up finish – a drought that left her fighting back tears during the trophy presentation.

The resurgent Dane had a great week, but at the end of it, she got served a potent dose of her own medicine.

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