Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, the World No 5, edged past 5th-seeded Elena Rybakina from Kazakstan, 6-4 1-6 6-2, at the Internationaux de Strasbourg on Saturday, in the final title match that took an hour 53 minutes and was played in chilly conditions.
Normally the tournaments are playing in really hot conditions. We were happy to finish today. In the end we got lucky to play. It’s different conditions to what we were expecting. I handled these conditions and the conditions well here in Strasbourg. Elina Svitolina
“It really gave me confidence to come back into the match,” Svitolina said. “The second set was a little bit one sided.
“It gave me hope and a better feel at the beginning of the third set.
“The delay was not easy, but it’s the same for everyone. It was important to come out and play my game, and not think about that so much.”
After rain delayed the start of the match, Svitolina earned the first break of the match in the 5th game as Rybakina struggled uncharacteristically in the early stages with her delivery, a double-fault throwing up a couple of break-point opportunities, and while Svitolina struck long on the first, she forced a netted backhand error on the second to take a 3-2 lead.
“It was not easy, but it’s the same for everyone any you have to adjust quickly,” she said, reflecting on the delay. “It was important to come out and play my game, and not think about that so much.”
While Rybakina, the World No 18, was able to make some headway on the Svitolina serve, earning a quick break-back point, this was snuffed out with an angled forehand as the 26-year-old saved it with a forehand crosscourt winner.
The Ukrainian then held serve with another forehand winner after 4 deuces, and although Rybakina hung on to her serve in the 7th and 9th games, she wrapped it up with a drop shot at 5-4.
The pivotal moment in the second came in the first game when Svitolina forced break point but fired wide and it proved to be the only opportunity she would have in the frame.
Having fended off the break point, Rybakina forced an error from Svitolina to break serve in the second game.
The Ukrainian saved a break point in the 4th game with a service winner, but Rybakina went up a double break to race out to a 5-1 lead after a double-fault from Svitolina in the 6th, and the Kazakh served out the second set to 30, forcing the match to the decider.
Rybakina had wrestled control by raising her first-serve percentage to 70, and making only 8 unforced errors to steal back the momentum.
Gaining in confidence and using smart drop-shots, Rybakina looked to now be in charge as she raced to a 0-40 advantage in the opening game of the decider, but the turning point came as Svitolina fended off 5 break point chances, delivering her first ace of the match in a timely moment in the process.
Rybakina, who had not dropped a set this week before the final, initially shrugged that blow off as she held comfortably, but it had steeled Svitolina, who lost only one further point on serve in the remainder of the match.
Forcing Rybakina to deuce 4 times in the 4th game, the match swung very quickly and decisively as Svitolina broke twice and her opponent faded.
“I rushed a bit in the third set. I lost a few games very quickly. I can serve a little bit better and make some better decisions,” Rybakina said. “It was so tough to play today because of the cold.
“It was the same for both of us. We had to fight and try to do our best.”
Svitolina, meanwhile, was pleased with the way she rallied from a disappointing second set.
“It was important to regroup and to get back into the match. It was really positive stuff for me,” she said.
Svitolina made only 23 unforced errors compared to Rybakinal’s 34, while she defended 8 of the 10 break points that she faced.
“Normally the tournaments are playing in really hot conditions,” Svitolina added. “We were happy to finish today. In the end we got lucky to play.
“It’s different conditions to what we were expecting. I handled these conditions and the conditions well here in Strasbourg.”
Svitolina, the 2010 French Open junior champion, returns to Paris off the back of her 5th WTA Tour clay court title from as many finals, and her second Top 20 win of the year after overcoming Aryna Sabalenka on Friday.
Melichar & Schuurs win doubles title
In the doubles final, top seeds Nicole Melichar & Demi Schuurs needed just 67 minutes to capture their first title as a team, beating No 4 seeds Hayley Carter & Luisa Stefani, 6-4 6-3.
The duo, who each captured their second title of 2020, bounced back from an opening-round loss in Rome in their second event together, having had success during the US events with different partners.
Schuurs captured the Western & Southern Open title with Kveta Peschke over Melichar & Xu Yifan, while the American added the Strasbourg title to a win with Xu in Adelaide in January.