Elina Svitolina unexpectedly strolled to a relatively comfortable win over the in-form Angelique Kerber in the semifinals of the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Meeting in the same round at the same tournament for the second consecutive year, it was the Ukrainian who extended her recent dominance over the seemingly-unstoppable German, triumphing 6-3, 6-3 to be within inches of defending her title.
Perhaps, the result could have been a surprise to some, due to the fact that Svitolina was not playing her best tennis throughout the week while Kerber was simply firing on all cylinders. Nonetheless, the world number four claimed her fifth consecutive win over the former world number one, sealing a spot in the final to face Daria Kasatkina.
Svitolina takes the entertaining first set
It was a surprisingly poor start from Kerber, who gifted several free points with her errors and ultimately getting broken in the opening game after throwing in a double-fault down break point. Although aggressive and merciless forehands by the German allowed her to break straight back, Svitolina was simply too solid at the baseline and returned everything possible, troubling Kerber with her flawless game.
Yet another double-fault gifted another break to Svitolina, who still could not find her range on her vulnerable second serves which implied that she failed to consolidate the break yet again. A marathon 18-point game ended with an unfortunate forehand unforced error from Kerber, marking the fifth consecutive service break.
For the first time in the match, a player held serve as the Ukrainian finally held onto her lead and extended her advantage. Kerber’s aggression backfired as she came up with several unusual errors, but remained alive with a spirited hold which saw her fend off a break point with a clinical forehand cross-court winner. However, things were just going too smoothly on Svitolina’s side, who maintained her high level to ultimately take the first set 6-3 after 44 minutes.
Kerber falters in straight sets
It was a surprise drop in level from Kerber, who was thought to have a huge chance to end her losing streak against Svitolina. The pressure to defend her title seemed nothing, although her chances were in jeopardy after the German threatened to produce an improbable comeback, starting with a triumph in a thrilling third game which saw her convert on her sixth break point.
However, a slight misfocus saw Kerber easily giving her serve away before Svitolina grabbed the perfect opportunity to regain the rhythm. Winning just five of the next 18 points, the former world number one soon found herself at a dangerous 2-5 deficit, being just inches away from defeat. Svitolina, though, remained composed and served out the confidence-boosting victory after just 85 minutes of play.
Match Statistics: Erratic Kerber produces poor performance
To her credit, Svitolina was extremely solid and efficient at the baseline, exploiting Kerber’s unreliable second serves along the way. The German won just a mere 22 percent of her second deliveries, being broken on six different occasions. She also served just one ace, together with a massive seven double-faults as compared to four aces and two double-faults from Svitolina.
Firing 18 winners and the same number of errors, Svitolina was clinical but Kerber blasted an incredible 36 errors to 27 winners, looking out-of-sorts to be handed just her third loss of 2018.