Preview: Down to Barty and Svitolina at WTA Finals in Shenzhen

Preview: Down to Barty and Svitolina at WTA Finals in Shenzhen

The defending champion has won all their five previous encounters.

The World No. 1 will try to dethrone the defending champion at the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen on Sunday as Ashleigh Barty takes on Elina Svitolina in the final of the season-ending event.

Svitolina was the first of the two to book their spot in the final, dropping her first set of the tournament but advancing to the final after Belinda Bencic had to retire down 5-7, 6-3, 4-1 due to cramping.

“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 will now go for her equal-biggest title, having won the WTA Finals last year in Singapore. She’s now on a 10-match winning streak at the season-ending event—not only did she go 5-0 to win the title last year and 4-0 so far this year, but she actually won her last round robin match in 2017.

The Ukrainian is also a win away from her first title of the year—this is actually her first final of the year. Her best results in 2019 before this were five semifinals, including her first two major semifinals at Wimbledon and the US Open, where she fell to Simona Halep and Serena Williams, respectively.

If she wins the title as an undefeated champion, she’ll take home a record $4,725,000.

“I have an important match tomorrow to win,” the World No. 8 said. “For me, I try to take one match at a time. You don’t have to think so much ahead, so much what’s going on. And in a big tournament like this, when you have to play someone in the top eight, someone who presents straightaway a tough game and you have to be very focused and ready from the beginning, that’s what we’re trying to do.

“Every match from the beginning you have to be on it.”

The second semifinal saw a battle between the Top 2 players in the world and it was the No. 1-ranked Barty who came through, rallying from a set down to beat No. 2 Karolina Pliskova, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

It was her 55th win of the year, tying her with Kiki Bertens for the most on tour.

“That match was an incredibly high level,” Barty said. “I didn’t do much wrong in the first set, and then we made some changes at the start of the second set and I was able to get a bit of a roll on.”

Post-match interview with Elina Svitolina

 

The Australian is going for her fourth title of the year, having already triumphed at Miami, Roland Garros and Birmingham. This would be the second-biggest title of her career, after Roland Garros.

“Tomorrow will be a match I can come out here and enjoy,” she said. “I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ll try to end my season well. Elina’s an extremely tough player who knows how to win in these situations.”

Svitolina actually dominates the head-to-head against Barty, 5-0, though their only 2019 meeting was by far the closest of them all: Svitolina beat her in the fourth round of Indian Wells, 7-6 (8), 5-7, 6-4, but Barty had five set points in the first set, as well as two points to go up a double break in the third set with Svitolina serving at 1-3, 15-40. The marathon match lasted three hours and 12 minutes.

Svitolina won’t be scared of Barty’s No. 1 ranking, either—the Ukrainian has six career wins over reigning No. 1s, having beaten Serena at the Olympics in 2016, Angelique Kerber at Beijing in 2016 and at Brisbane and Fed Cup in 2017, and Halep at the WTA Finals in 2017 and Rome in 2018.