BEIJING, China --?No.3 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine fought her way into the second round of the China Open on Sunday night, coming back from the loss of a close first set to oust last year’s Beijing runner-up, Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-2.
"It was a tough one for the first round here," Svitolina told the media, after her victory.?"[Sevastova]?made the final here last year, so I knew that I had to be focused from the beginning."
World No.3 Svitolina got the short end of the stick in an opening frame that took over an hour, but regrouped to ease through the final two sets of the clash and defeat World No.19 Sevastova for the second time in their three meetings.
"The first set was tough, and she played some great points at the end," Svitolina stated. "But then I tried to re-focus and step up."
Svitolina finished the match with 31 winners to 28 unforced errors, and converted seven of her 12 break points. Sevastova, who charged to the biggest final of her career at the China Open last season, finished the encounter with 33 winners, but only one-third of those came in the final two sets. The Latvian eventually ended the match with 40 unforced errors as well.
It was Sevastova who drew first blood, breaking to lead 2-0 with an error-forcing crosscourt backhand, but Svitolina pulled back on serve in the next game, converting her third break point after back-to-back long forehand miscues by Sevastova. The duo exchanged breaks once more as they failed to separate each other by much through 3-3.
At the end of the 4-3 game, Svitolina lost her way off the backhand side, and Sevastova attained a break and a chance to serve for the one-set lead. The Latvian held two set points at 5-3, but Svitolina fended them off before breaking to get back on serve. At 6-5, Svitolina saved a third set point, this one on her serve, with a sturdy volley, and grasped a tough hold to queue up a tiebreak.
In the breaker, the duo once again kept things closely contested up to 3-3. However, Sevastova took control by ending a rally with a backhand passing winner to reach 4-3, and then lined up three more set points after a divine backhand dropshot brought her to 6-3. Two points later, a Sevastova backhand drew a long error from Svitolina, and the Latvian had eked out the opener.
The second set, though, was a completely different story, as Svitolina used her own footspeed and wiles to overcome her crafty opponent. At 2-1, Svitolina came out on top of an all-court rally with a deft lob, and maneuvered to a break of service from there. The Ukrainian was even the recipient of good fortune, as a return crept over the netcord to give her a second break for 5-1.
Serving to level the match at one set apiece, Svitolina faced two break points, but sound forehands by the No.3 seed allowed her to stave off those chances. Later in the game, Sevastova misjudged a dropshot, ceding a set point to Svitolina. The Ukrainian took her opportunity, grabbing the second set after a wide return by Sevastova.
A quick break in the first game of the final set sent Svitolina zooming towards the finish line, as she fired her arsenal at Sevastova while the Latvian’s unforced errors increased. Svitolina had no trouble holding serve throughout the rest of the decider, and took a commanding lead after putting away a winning volley to break again for 5-2.
In the next game, Svitolina’s second ace brought her to triple match point. A double fault squandered the first, and Sevastova saved the second with a bold backhand crosscourt winner, but the Ukrainian took the third as a Sevastova backhand found the net to end the affair.
Svitolina moves into a second-round encounter against one of the home country favorites, Wang Yafan, who?won the first WTA singles title of her career earlier this season?in Acapulco. In fact, Wang beat Svitolina in their only prior encounter, at the Miami Open earlier this year.
"I’m sure [Wang is] going to be fired up and be ready for a fight," said Svitolina. "For me, it’s important to recover from today’s match, and try to bring my good game for [the next round], and we’ll see how it goes."