Dubai 2018: Svitolina brings end to bold Kasatkina’s run to defend title
Elina Svitolina successfully defends her Dubai title after a straight sets victory over Daria Kasatkina on Saturday
The young and fearless 20-year-old Russian, Daria Kasatkina, had captured the hearts of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships fans in the course of her run to the final, but the experience and energy of the defending champion Elina Svitolina proved to be a step too far in the title match.
Kasatkina, the unseeded world No24, had survived a tough Dubai draw, beating former champion Agnieszka Radwanska in her opener, then coming back from a set and match points down against world No11 Johanna Konta, beating last year’s Indian Wells champion Elena Vesnina in the quarters, and finally surviving more match points against the reigning Wimbledon champion in a two-and-a-half-hour semi-final.
But come top seed Svitolina, a 10-time WTA champion who owned two victories over the younger woman, there were no more upsets or comebacks. The defending champion dominated a 6-4, 6-0 victory in just 70 minutes to reach her 299th career win, making the Ukrainian the third player in the 18-year history of the Dubai event to successfully defend her title, after Justine Henin in 2004 and Venus Williams in 2010
Of the victory, Svitolina said:
“It feels great. I am very pleased with the performance throughout the week. When I had to play well, I played well, important moments. I was serving good, returning well, getting lots of balls back. It was solid performance, I would say.
“Yeah, I really enjoyed. It was tough battle in the first set. I was going through tough moments. She was fighting really, really hard. Yeah, was high intensity. But I was pleased the way I handles it.”
Both players began cautiously, but once Svitolina broke to lead 3-2, she always looked the stronger player. She grew in confidence as she played more aggressively, and although Kasatkina had battled back from match points twice during the week, she was unable to do so again.
The Russian had, after all, spent an exhausting 545 minutes on court, and while she still rallied strongly from the baseline, but made too many tired errors to force a comeback.
This exciting young player, who will break the top 20 for the first time come Monday, admitted:
“I think Elina, she was the toughest opponent for this final. Yeah, she was playing really good during all week. In the final, she showed I think her best tennis. It was really tough. [But I take] only positive things, of course.
“I mean, I spent amazing 12 hours on the central court. I won four unbelievable matches. Yeah, OK, I didn’t have enough for the final, but still it was a very nice week.”
The doubles title went to the unseeded pair of Hao-Ching Chan and Zhaoxuan Yang, who defeated fourth seeds Su-Wei Hsieh and Shuai Peng, 4-6, 6-2, 10-6.
With Peng already the owner of 21 titles and Hsieh seeking her 20th, the former French Open and Wimbledon champions began as favourites. But Chan has also enjoyed considerable success with 13 titles and a runner-up finish at Wimbledon last year, and her more aggressive play with Yang gave them the edge.
The tournament continues next week with the ATP draw, which is headlined by world No4, Grigor Dimitrov.
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