Elina Svitolina succumbed to a lengthy match at the Claro Open Wednesday. The number one seeded from Ukraine dealt with long delays, a pulled muscle in her leg and a strong finish from Russian Alexandra Panova as she won 7-5, 1-6, 7-6(6) to move into the second round
The number one seeded Ukrainian got started with a first meeting against the 155th ranked Russian who recently finished a 50k tournament but was eliminated in the quarterfinals. She comes into the into the tenth international tournament hoping that she could do better than she did at the Malaysia Open. For the champion of the tournament at Kuala Lumpur, she couldn’t pull off a second straight at Indian Wells or get past Ekaterina Makarova at Miami. With no one high ranked as her in the tournament, she could find herself winning a second championship for the first time in her career.
To start things off, Svitolina had to deal with the heavy wind that had a big role in the weather that had dark clouds all over. The Russian held serve in the first game having the wind as an assist to win by two game points. The Ukrainian pulled off the same feat still getting used to the clay. She would have to wait for sometime before play could resume as rain began to fall on court after the conclusion of Game Two.
The rain lasted over three hours and by the time both players returned it was nearly a four hour delay. The Russian got back on serve in the third to resume play but was broken by Svitolina who wanted to work quickly at gaining leverage fast. She got into some trouble in the fourth as Panova sought the break but couldn’t outduel the quick Ukrainian.
She gained back ground in the fifth holding her serve for a second time before laying down with a second win in a row to level up with Svitolina. The unforced errors by the 21 year old were being helped along by the wind that pushed the ball a little further behind the baseline. It turned into a complete loss of control as the Russian had a three game winning streak leading her to a solid hold.
Svitolina had to do something to get out of a jam and did so with a strong service in the eighth to level back just in time. It came in the ninth that Panova had the grip on the set as she battled to stay out front and take Svitolina out of commission to play for the lead in the match. It looked as if she was taking herself out as she pressed on her lower thigh while winning the tenth to play the set onward.
She showed signs of struggle on returns that had her fighting with Panova on deuce. Svitolina played through four breaks before falling to the Russian who took a 6-5 control. It was then that the Ukrainian called for the trainer to help deal with her thigh issue. After a few minutes of treatment, she got back out trying to save the set from going to Panova. She couldn’t as the 27 year old held firm on the break to end the 1 hour and 9 minute first set.
There was still time for Svitolina to recover and in the first game she did it with flawless action taking the lead with a triple break. She earned a second straight before Panova could get into the set by Game Three. The win by the Russian didn’t take anything away from Svitolina’s much improved gameplay as the number one seed took the next pair taking a commanding 4-1 hold of the set. By the time she took a comfortable 5-1 hold the light had gone away leaving the players to call it a day and resume the next day.
Svitolina finished the set winning 6-1 in what was looking like a solid comeback, but a deciding third set would go in as the most competitive one to end a first rounder.
From start to finish it looked as if either one had control of things. Through four games they looked even, but the Russian pushed out to a 4-2 lead looking like she would be moving forward to an upset. The 21 year old Ukrainian still had to deal with the pain in her leg muscle but battled through it to level back in time. It continued on with a neck and neck race to the finish but there wasn’t one. Ten games went into the books with Svitolina saving the match for herself in time to fight for her chance at saving her tournament.
Panova took the important sixth game after 11 trying to knock out Svitolina and end the two day marathon. The top seed came out destined to push the set to its distance and did so after a few breaks on deuce went in her favor. A tiebreaker was all that stood left for either player after playing 2 and ½ half hours and 48 hours of time elapsed.
It was another race with each staying close until Svitolina gained some leverage. She took a 6-4 hold looking to lock down the important seventh point. Panova didn’t let her as she got back into contention on a mission to push on as far as she could go. She would find the energy left to overtake Svitolina at six all and put the nail in the coffin for the high seeded Ukrainian. Panova was quite thrilled with her strength at the end of the 2 hour and 45 minute match.
With such work being put in over a two day period, she’ll hope to have a better outing when she faces Conny Perrin of Switzerland in the round of 16 Thursday.