After a week of dramatic action the first finals of the season are coming up, and on the WTA side qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich takes on third seed Elina Svitolina for the Brisbane International title on Saturday.
It is undoubtedly a very surprising final in Brisbane. Though many predicted Svitolina, one of the most successful players of 2017, to do well this week, very few would have backed Sasnovich to make such an impressive run, especially considering she had to win three qualifying matches just to reach the main draw.
This will be the first meeting between the two, and the final is set to take place at around 19:00 Brisbane Time. The winner will receive 470 ranking points, whilst the runner-up will receive 305 ranking points.
Road to the Final
It has undoubtedly been an impressive road for both women so far, with neither finding things particularly easy on their way to making the final
Of the two, it is Svitolina who has had the most comfortable path to the final. The Ukrainian, seeded third in Brisbane, started the tournament with a very confident win over Carla Suarez Navarro, and then impressed once again as she eased past Ana Konjuh for the loss of just four games. Svitolina then benefitted from some slight luck in her quarterfinal match, with fifth seed Johanna Konta forced to retire in the third set, though the Ukrainian impressed once again in her semifinal, battling past defending champion and second seed Karolina Pliskova to reach her first final of the new season.
Meanwhile, as previously mentioned, Sasnovich had already won three matches to reach the main draw before the tournament started, and came from a set down in her opening match to upset sixth seed Kristina Mladenovic. The Belarusian then came from a set down once against Anett Kontaveit to reach the last eight, where she again dropped the opening set before fighting back to defeat 2017 runner-up Alize Cornet. Sasnovich came up against seventh seed Anastasija Sevastova in the last four, and put in her best performance of the tournament, prevailing in two sets over the Latvian to reach just her second career final.
There can be little doubt that, after winning a staggering seven matches in a row, Sasnovich will be incredibly confident heading into what is the biggest match of her career. Considering she has three times fought back from a set down, it seems unlikely that she will be daunted by the occasion, though one disadvantage for her maybe the fact that Svitolina has played a lot less tennis; the Belarusian will probably try to finish points off as quickly as possible, as she will not want to be drawn into long, tiring rallies against the Ukrainian. The Belarusian must also look to defend well, as Svitolina has been quick to attack and try to make decisive moves this week.
Svitolina is certainly the favorite for this encounter and will likely have the fresher legs, though there are some vulnerabilities in her game that could be exploited. The Ukrainian struggled at times against Konta and Pliskova with her serving, and considering how confident her opponent will be she must try to serve well and take control of the majority of rallies as quickly as possible. One of her strengths, however, is her defensive skills, and she will likely try to use this to frustrate Sasnovich into making careless errors and to surprise the Belarusian by turning defense into attack quickly and effectively.
Whilst this is undoubtedly an intriguing final, considering how well both women have in general played this week, there is no doubt that Svitolina is the favorite for this match. Sasnovich will be confident and should not be underestimated, but the Ukrainian should be the victor here.
Prediction: Elina Svitolina in straight sets