WTA Finals: Svitolina overcomes ailing Bencic to reach the final
Elina Svitolina will vie for the title once again | Photo: Clive Brunskill

Belinda Bencic was having a dream debut at the 2019 WTA Finals Shenzhen this year, but her dreams crushed when she sustained a right hamstring injury in her semifinal match which ultimately forced her to throw in the white towel and retire from the match. The Swiss was playing a good match but her movement was affected by the injury, limiting the quality of her play.

As a result, Elina Svitolina extends her winning streak at the year-end championships to a whopping 10 matches, which dates all the way back to 2017 when she won her last round-robin match. The Ukrainian is looking to become the ninth woman to defend the WTA Finals title.

Coming into Shenzhen without reaching a final all year, Svitolina produced some of her best tennis in this tournament as she favours the surface, the court speed and the chance to play her fellow top players. Three top-10 wins later, she finds herself back in the finals competing for the biggest title and the largest paycheck in women’s tennis.

Svitolina and Bencic share a nice hug after the match | Photo: Clive Brunskill
Svitolina and Bencic share a nice hug after the match | Photo: Clive Brunskill

Bencic hit an equal number of winners and unforced errors at 29 each, but most of her errors were committed in the latter stages of the encounter when she was hampered by her right leg injury. Svitolina took full advantage and blasted 37 winners to just 20 unforced errors, serving a career-best 16 aces in the process.

Finding 27 aces in her last two matches combined, Svitolina will hope to replicate her top-notch serving performance against world number one Ashleigh Barty in the final. She owns a 5-0 lead in their head-to-head record and will be favoured to defend her title successfully.

Bencic survives the tight opening set

A tight start to the match saw both players dominating in their service games, but it was Bencic who was forced to fend off a break chance in the fifth game. Svitolina will rue her missed chances as her first serves abandoned her in the following game, with Bencic pouncing on her chances and utilized her aggressive game to draw the early blood.

Belinda Bencic in action | Photo: Clive Brunskill
Belinda Bencic in action | Photo: Clive Brunskill

However, several loose errors saw Svitolina roaring straight back into contention and returning level on serve. Bencic seemed to have pulled something in her leg as she tried to stretch it out during the next changeover. A proper medical time-out was finally taken just before Svitolina attempted to serve and stay in the set.

That lengthy break seemed to have aided Bencic in finding her rhythm as she went all out in her returns, converting on her third set point after an exciting rally to take the first set 7-5.

Svitolina completes the comeback and moves into the final

Bencic started the second set with her movement looking hampered and the consequences were cruel as Svitolina continued to dig deep, ultimately breaking serve to take the lead for the first time in the match. The Swiss continued to struggle but was able to use her pure power to overwhelm Svitolina at the baseline, continuing to find opportunities.

Elina Svitolina in action | Photo: Clive Brunskill
Elina Svitolina in action | Photo: Clive Brunskill

Svitolina was not absolutely solid at the baseline as several errors crept out of her game, but the decisive moment of the match had to be the sixth game in which the defending champion had to save two break chances, one of them with her eleventh ace of the evening. From there, she did not look back as she comfortably served out the second frame 6-3.

A toilet break did not help Bencic to regain her momentum as her struggles were more evident in the deciding set. Svitolina started to be more confident and went for her shots, causing Bencic to have no replies to them. An early break of serve sealed Bencic’s fate as she soon went down 1-4 in the decider, and made the tough decision to retire.