For the second straight year, world No. 8 Elina Svitolina is through to the WTA Finals after clawing her way back from a set down to defeat world No. 7 Belinda Bencic on Saturday, 5-7, 6-3, 4-1, in Shenzhen. The defending champion has now won 10 straight matches at the year-end event.
Looking to avenge her Rogers Cup fourth-round loss in August, Bencic came out with a purpose, redirecting pace and shortening the rallies whenever she got the chance. It quickly paid off as she broke at 15 to take a 4-2 lead but Svitolina answered right away to get back on serve. Immediately after receiving a medical timeout for her right hamstring, the Swiss pounced to take the first set on her third set point, 7-5.
Having dropped her first set of week, Svitolina rectified the situation by taking the first two games of the second set. With a second break in the ninth game, the 25-year-old sent the match to a third-set decider.
Svitolina continued to roll, reeling off three straight games in the third set. Clearly struggling with movement caused by cramping on the right leg, an emotional Bencic was forced to retire from the match in the fifth game, trailing 4-1 in the third set.
Post-match interview with Elina Svitolina
“It’s tough to play someone who’s injured,” Svitolina said. “When someone’s injured they try to go for more, and she was hitting the ball very well. She was going for it. Sometimes she was missing, but sometimes she was hitting amazing shots. That’s the challenge, what you have to be aware of.”
Svitolina is seeking her first title since lifting the trophy at last season’s year-end event. She will face world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who battled past world No. 2 Karolina Pliskova, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Barty, who made a Grand Slam breakthrough this season by winning the French Open, clinched the year-end No. 1 on Sunday after her three-set win over Bencic in their opening Red Group round-robin encounter.