5th seed Elina Svitolina continues to have an excellent US Open campaign as the Ukrainian, who is certainly under the radar thus far, stunned home favourite and fellow top-10 player Madison Keys in the fourth round here in Flushing Meadows, under the lights of a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Keys and Svitolina are certainly familiar rivals, having met thrice in the past with the WTA Finals champion earning her sole win over the powerful hitter at this year’s Australian Open, where she ultimately made the quarterfinals. Two years ago, the pair met at the exact same stage, with Keys prevailing in a tight three-setter en route her maiden Major final appearance.
This time, Svitolina managed to exact revenge for her loss with a stunning performance. Many would expect Keys to be dominant in her service games, but instead, it was the fifth seed who won 92 per cent of her first-serve points and went unbroken throughout the match without facing a solitary break point. Keys struggled on the return and failed to find the rhythm in the entire duration of one hour and 15 minutes, which is considered relatively short for a 7-5, 6-4 match.
Despite serving seven aces and hitting 32 winners, Keys’ 40 unforced errors undone her hard work as Svitolina remained solid off the ground, committing just 13 unforced errors in what can be considered a very clean performance.
The first set saw no break points conceded until the eleventh game when Keys succumbed to the pressure and started to produce a slew of unforced errors. A forehand error proved to be costly as it finally handed Svitolina the first break, alongside the chance to serve out the set. Svitolina, losing just five points on serve in the set, was looking to reach her third Grand Slam quarterfinal of the year despite struggling at the Slams previously.
The second break of serve came early in the second set, with Keys being unable to control her aggression and often missed the lines. Svitolina capitalized on her advantage fully, taking control of the match as she crept closer to the finishing line. This is her best first-serve win percentage in any match this year and deservedly served out the match for a quarterfinal spot.
“Maybe I just played really well in Cincinnati and came in here -- I mean, maybe I played well the first couple of matches because of Cincinnati. You know, I have never played that many matches coming into a slam. Like, it could have been anything. So it's still a good summer. I still was able to get a title and I still made the second week of a slam and played three really good matches. I mean, I'm not going to go sit in a dark room and cry for the next four days. I'm obviously disappointed and wish I could have gone further, but I just have to learn from it and take positives and go into Asia and try to play well there.” Keys will rue her missed chances after coming into the tournament as a dark horse, but it was still an amazing stretch of results from the American. However, she will still fall out of the top-10 as she is unable to defend her semifinal points.
“I think generally I was serving very good today. I was changing the pace, I was changing the placement very good. All the important points at the beginning gave me the confidence after to be more aggressive with my serve. Yeah, it's a little bit of everything. I think I served well, and then maybe, I don't know, she didn't feel maybe the return so well tonight. Yeah, I was happy the way I handled my service games.” Svitolina definitely sounded delighted about how well she served during her post-match press conference.
Svitolina will next face Johanna Konta, who stunned Karolina Pliskova in a three-set thriller earlier during the day. The Ukrainian holds a 4-0 head-to-head advantage over the Brit and will be favoured to reach her second consecutive Major semifinal.