WTA Moscow: Elina Svitolina cruises past Ana Konjuh

World number 15 Elina Svitolina is the first semifinalist of the 2016 Kremlin Cup, defeating an Ana Konjuh not in her best form. For the Ukrainian, it will be the sixth semifinal of the year (four of them at a Premier level), and it comes back-to-back with the semifinal reached two weeks ago in Beijing, where she fell to eventual champion Agnieszka Radwanska, not before defeating world number 1 Angelique Kerber in the third round. In Moscow, Svitolina took on a Konjuh in a bind, who struggled to keep the ball in play, hitting a lot of errors and too many double faults, especially in crucial moments. The Ukrainian will have to take on defending champion and Singapore contender Svetlana Kuznetsova for a place in the final.

Ana Konjuh playing at 2016 Guangzhou Open [Photo credit: Zhong Zhi/Getty Images]                         

Svitolina easily books the first set

The first part of the set started as very fast and one-sided, with a partial score of 12 points to 1 for Svitolina after the first three games. The Ukrainian easily held her serve to open the game, and, thanks to a double fault and three forehand errors from Konjuh, immediately took the lead with a break to love.

The Croatian continued with a series of unforced errors which heavily prejudiced her game, struggling with her forehand and often making mistakes when looking for the lines. After one long, battled game, again full of errors from the 18-year-old, Svitolina could claim a comfortable 4-0 lead, which consolidated right away, saving two break points and battling back to Konjuh’s attempts to attack her at the net. The Croatian won her first and only game of the first set by holding her following serve, but couldn’t go further, as her opponent successfully served out the set.

Elina Svitolina in action at 2016 China Open in Beijing [Photo credit: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images]       

Konjuh keeps struggling, Svitolina rallies to win the match

The 18-year-old Croatian didn’t find any better form by the time the second set started, falling immediately two break points down and losing the opening game with another unforced error. She served again from 2-0 down, but despite getting a chance to hold from 40-30 up, she hit three double faults in a row and dropped another game to her opponent.

Svitolina didn’t falter, and despite facing another battled game on her following serve, she showed how she was the more consistent player on court by taking control of the rallies, and she saved two more break points to consolidate the lead with another hold.

Konjuh eventually stopped the Ukrainian's dominance with a hold that put her 1-4 down, but couldn’t convert her chances to break in the following game. Serving to stay in the match, the Croatian gifted a match point to her opponent with a backhand error, and Svitolina didn’t miss her chance, closing the match with a double 6-1 after an hour of play.

A large number of unforced error (especially by forehand) and seven double faults, with a constant struggle with her serve (with 50% of first serve in, and only 16% of points won with her second serve) affected Konjuh’s performance, while solid play from Svitolina with both her serve and returns allowed her to never lose the control of the match.

Svitolina will meet Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semifinals for the second time in career; the pair has already met at 2014 Australian Open, where the Ukrainian won in straight sets.