Elina Svitolina had an up and down fight in the desert but was able to walk out of it. Her 6-3, 6-1 straight sets win over Jana Cepelova moved her into the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Centre Court Tuesday. Svitolina dealt with some aggression from across court as well as her own struggling game to be the better player in the opening round.
The two haven’t met in three years with the Ukrainian gaining the lead in head to head matches with a straight set win in New Haven. The 21 year old hasn’t been in action in over two weeks but gained a huge boost of confidence and skill to her side. Former number one and Grand Slam champion Justin Henin joined her group as a consultant to help her become a much stronger competitor. The tips from the Belgian legend could help her avoid a three set battle that she twice got into with the Slovakian.
Cepelova worked hard to qualify into the WTA premier event with two wins over Americans Alison Riske and Bethanie Mattek Sands. With her fighting in every set, the 22 year old might be able to rekindle the rivalry with Svitolina and keep her winning streak alive.
Svitolina had a terrific start to the match playing well from the baseline to break the Slovakian before holding on her own service. Cepelova racked up double faults on her return of service that kept things smooth for the Ukrainian. She dictated the movement of the ball in Game Four letting her strategy press the 22 year old to play every shot behind the court.
Deuce arrived in the fifth as unforced errors caused the 21st ranked star to get into the brief draw. In the end she regrouped and won the break on Cepelova to serve for the set. Svitolina got behind in the sixth and lost control to let the bagel slip from her fingers.
It was the first break for Cepelova in the set and tried to get one on serve. Both players continued racking up the errors on court with another deuce draw coming into play. The pressure got into the minds of both players as the game went four minutes and 37 seconds before Cepelova captured her second straight. The Slovakian showed a lot more fight against Svitolina as the Ukrainian was falling apart with three double faults and very little control.
It took her four tries to close out the feeling confident on a long shot from her opponent despite it being challenged. Instead of closing things out in under 20 minutes, it took Svitolina 31 to put the set in the bag with one more to go. She ended things with a 45 percent success rate on serve landing only seven winners with 19 unforced errors along with it.
Cepelova broke Svitolina in the opening game of the second where her aggression still kindled inside her game. The same was said for the Ukrainian who maintained the break through two games to pick up a love service in the third. Her dominating form slowly came back taking a 3-1 hold in the set against Cepelova trying to end things on a high note. The fifth became a serious fight for both players as Cepelova challenged the ranked Ukrainian to a fight on deuce. She pushed a 30 shot rally with Svitolina to gain the advantage but found her self in a long drawn out battle instead. It took six breaks and 17 minutes for the game to conclude with Svitolina gaining the much needed win to lead 4-1. It was very tough and she’s a tough opponent,” Svitolina said about the game. Both players required a water break with Cepelova asking for the services of the medical tech.
After a couple of minutes, play resumed with the Slovakian serving to get back into the set down three games. She found herself losing out completely as Svitolina ran through the final two games with a solid love service to end the match in 1 hour and 12 minutes. The recovery in the second set saved the young Ukrainian from having to put more work that wasn’t necessary against Cepelova. Her second serve having won 9 of 15 and eight of nine break points helped out in sealing the advance to the second round.
“Today’s conditions were tough so I was trying to stay focused on my game and really happy that I could win today with this score,” she said after the match. Svitolina goes up against second seeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain who has been out of competition since the Australian Open in Melbourne. She’s a real tough opponent,” Svitolina said about her next match. “So ill focus on my game and play well against her hoping to have a good match.”