Ukraine's Elina Svitolina is 22-years-old, and the current world number 13 is on the cusp of reaching the top ten for the first time in her career. The seventh seed ended her partnership with British coach Iain Hughes, at the end of the 2016 campaign. Seven-time Grand Slam champion Justine Henin joined her team last year to overlook her progress.
On the other side of the net to Svitolina will be former world number one Caroline Wozniacki. Wozniacki has been in a rich vein of form since reaching the semifinals of the US Open last year. The current world number 15 started 2016 ranked at 17, and her ranking plummeted to 74 due to injuries and a loss of form. Nonetheless, she rallied and catapulted herself back inside the top 20 and won two titles in Tokyo and Hong Kong towards the end of the season.
Should Svitolina defeat the Dane she will be ranked inside the top 10 for the first time, when the new rankings are released on Monday. The world number 13 was victorious in Taiwan in her last outing before the Fed Cup weekend. Wozniacki was a runner-up at the Premier event in Doha last week, coming up a little short to last year's US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova. The tournament in Doha was interrupted by rain which caused players to play some matches twice in one day in order to keep up with the schedule.
Svitolina's route to the final
The seventh seed received a bye in the first round as one of the top eight seeds. In her first match in Dubai, the 22-year-old defeated Chinese qualifier Zheng Saisai, 7-5, 6-1. However, Svitolina had to recover from a set down to defeat the USA's Christina McHale, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 to reach her third quarterfinal in four tournaments. The world number 13 carried on her good run of form by defeating McHale's compatriot, Lauren Davis, 6-0, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals. In the semifinals, Svitolina was up against two-time Grand Slam champion and world number two Angelique Kerber. The duo faced off for the tenth time, and Svitolina won their previous two meetings. The German received a medical timeout in this match on her back. Svitolina defeated the former world number one, 6-3, 7-6 (3) to level their head-to-head at 5-5, and halted her chances of regaining the world number one ranking from Serena Williams.
Wozniacki's route to the final
The two-time US Open finalist would've been pleased to have received a bye in the first round, however, she wasn't one of the top eight seeds to gain a bye. Wozniacki had a tough first round encounter with Daria Kasatkina but she came through that match unscathed in straight sets, 6-2, 7-5. In the second round, the former world number one sailed past Viktorija Golubic, 6-4, 6-2. The 10th seed came back from a set down to defeat Svitolina's compatriot Kateryna Bondarenko, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach her fourth quarterfinal of the year. In the quarterfinals, Wozniacki dispatched 17-year-old CiCi Bellis, 6-3, 6-2. The 26-year-old defeated Anastasija Sevastova in a rematch of their US Open quarterfinal last year, defeating the Latvian, 6-3, 6-4 to reach her 44th WTA final.
The pair has met on one occasion, and it was in the third round of the Miami Open last year. Svitolina came back from a set down to defeat Wozniacki in a three-set thriller, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (1).
Who wins the Championship?
Svitolina is currently enjoying a nine-match winning streak and the 22-year-old knows that she has a big chance to take the next step in her development. The seventh seed has only reached one Grand Slam quarterfinal in her career, and it was in the quarterfinals of the French Open in 2015 losing to 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic. The hard-hitting Ukranian will be competing in the biggest final of her career at the Premier 5 event at the Aviation Club Tennis Centre in Dubai.
Moreover, Wozniacki has hired Sascha Bajin as her hitting partner. Bajin was the former hitting partner of her best friend Serena Williams and former world number one Victoria Azarenka. The keys to victory in this match for Svitolina will be to serve well and dominate play from the baseline as the former world number one is the better mover out of the two players, and she can engage in long rallies. However, Wozniacki will be fatigued out of the two players, and she is carrying a slight leg injury from the amount of tennis she has played in the past couple of weeks. Furthermore, Wozniacki plans to take a mini-break after this week in order to recuperate for the two big North American hard court Premier Mandatory events in Indian Wells and Miami.
Wozniacki's serve isn't the strongest but she will be able to throw in some drop shots to get Svitolina off the baseline, and mix-up the play by using the lob shots if the Ukranian is stranded at the net.
The 10th seed cannot re-enter the top ten, should she be victorious Wozniacki and Svitolina along with Karolina Pliskova are the only three players to have reached two finals in 2017 so far. Svitolina will be looking to be two out of two in finals this year, whilst Wozniacki will be hoping to win her 26th career title. This final between the world number 13 and world number 15 will take place at not before 7 pm local time on Centre Court, and this final promises to be an intriguing contest.
Prediction: Wozniacki in three sets