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Elina Svitolina holds off Garbiñe Muguruza to complete Rome QF line-up
The two-time Internazionali BNL d'Italia champion scored her first completed clay-court match win over former world No. 1 Muguruza, and will next play reigning Roland Garros champ Iga Swiatek at the Foro Italico.
Published May 13, 2021
Two-time Internazionali BNL d’Italia champion Elina Svitolina captured her first completed clay-court win over rival Garbiñe Muguruza, ousting the former world No. 1, 6-4, 6-2 in Rome.
"Even when I play against some big hitters like Petra Kvitova, Garbiñe Muguruza, Aryna Sabalenka as well, they are really taking big swings," Svitolina said after the match. "You have no time to do anything. So you have to be really quick, you have to be on your toes all the time, try to get your own, create your own opportunities.
"That's why I was going into the match with an aggressive mindset. I think in the end I was really composed and really tough on the important moments."
The No. 5 seed last beat Muguruza in Wuhan back in 2019, and emerged out of a tricky opening set to complete the quarterfinal line-up after 76 minutes on Campo Centrale.
Svitolina, who announced her engagement to Gaël Monfils earlier in the spring, has been on an upswing after a slow start to the season, reaching back-to-back semifinals at the Miami Open and the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, and rallied from a set down to defeat Amanda Ansimova in her opening round at the Foro Italico.
While the Ukrainian has rediscovered her form, Muguruza has been playing catch-up after a left leg injury interrupted her clay-court campaign. The two-time Grand Slam champion, who won her eighth career title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, at last made her red clay debut in Rome after retiring in Charleston and withdrawing from Madrid, earning wins over Patricia Maria Tig and Bernarda Pera—overcoming the latter in three dramatic sets.
Her 12-match rivalry with the 26-year-old Svitolina dates back to their earliest days on tour, in a pair of Grand Slam qualifying events in 2012, and together the two have evenly split their last four meetings, though Muguruza won their most recent clay-court clash at Roland Garros in 2019.
Svitolina, who won a pair of Rome titles in 2017 and 2018, nonetheless had the better of Muguruza from the start of the match, holding to open and leading by a break three times before the Spaniard leveled the set at four games apiece.
"I had to work," Svitolina said. "I had to find this edge, to find this good game because I think I missed few chances to get earlier lead in the first set. I wish I could play little bit better because I had some game points on my serve. I was breaking again, again game points. I wish I could play a little bit better in the first set. But I was happy that it went well and I won eventually the first set.
"I was just trying to find my good game, trying to move quick, trying to be aggressive at the same time."
Back in front with a rare hold of serve, the former world No. 3 got to set point in the following game and converted when Muguruza put a forehand long—her 12th unforced error of the day.
Muguruza aimed for a clean slate in the second set and soon had the momentum with an early break advantage, but Svitolina broke straight back off a double fault and ultimately reeled off the final five games of the match, edging over the finish line thanks to a drop shot duffed into the net.
In all, Svitolina employed excellent aggression throughout, striking 23 winners to just 11 unforced errors, and was focused on key points with a seven-for-eight break point conversion rate. Muguruza, by contrast, made 17 winners to 22 unforced errors, and only earned the one break of serve in the second set.
Standing between Svitolina and the semifinals is reigning Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek, who survived a three-set thriller and two match points against Barbora Krejcikova earlier on Thursday.
"For sure I have many things to improve," Swiatek said after the match. "I am getting more and more confident. Here I have hard time implementing things I don't practice on match. I'm happy that I'm going to have, like, two weeks off to train more, to have everything just perfect. I hope it's going to be like that.
"I also want to play when I'm not playing my best tennis. I'm trying to learn that. That's most important thing for me. For sure we're aiming for French Open, so, I hope it's going to go better."
Swiatek and Svitolina paired up during the Melbourne quarantine, and seemed destined to play in Paris last fall before the Ukrainian lost a surprising quarterfinal encounter with qualifier Nadia Podoroska.
"Definitely she's a great hitting partner," Svitolina said. "We had fun for two weeks in Australia. She's very nice person, as well. It's going to be really interesting match, really competitive. She's a great fighter.
"For me, I will have to just focus on my game, try to build the level that I showed today, try just to be composed with my game, try to be relaxed at the same time because I really love to play on this court. It's very nice to see the crowd, as well. I'm sure there are going to be lots of good rallies. I'm looking forward to this match."