Elina Svitolina has a lot to be proud of as she reflects on her grand slam season, having reached successive semi-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open.
But what may run through her mind on Saturday when she takes the long flight to China for the Zhengzhou Women’s Tennis Open are the opportunities she missed to stamp her authority on a semi-final with Serena Williams that got away from her in a hurry.
The Ukrainian had the right approach in the opening game at Arthur Ashe Stadium, going on the attack early and immediately bringing up three break points, only to let all of them slip.
She committed the same offence in the fifth game with a chance to break back after Williams had surged 3-1 ahead, and from then on the contest became a lesson in making the most of opportunities that the American dished out with relish.
Williams needed just an hour and 10 minutes to wrap up a 6-3 6-1 victory, with Svitolina left to rue her inability to take those chances before the 23-time grand slam champion ensured no further openings were forthcoming.
“It was quite a good start for me, I would say. And first two games I had the chances to break and then to hold,” Svitolina told a media conference. “[I] had the chances, but in the same time she played really, really focused and very precise on those two games. After she served in the third game unbelievable.
“I think [those] games gave her not confidence, obviously she’s a really experienced player, but it gave her this push to play more freely.”
— WTA (@WTA) September 6, 2019
Asked to analyse the break points, she said: “I think on half of them she played really great. She served really good and then went for a second-shot winner.
“Then I had maybe one or two points where I could step, I could make a difference, but I didn’t. I made a few unforced errors.
“But, again, that’s why she is who she is. You are playing in front of the best tennis player in the world. If you don’t take it, she just grabs it and there’s no chance to take it back.
“The last two slams have been good for me. I’m very happy with the way I could handle the tough moments. Unfortunately both times it’s finished really one-sided, which I have to analyse, I have to sit down with my coach, I have to work a lot mentally on how I have to handle those kind of matches.
“That’s where you have to really step up your game.”
Svitolina revealed she was battling a knee problem during the match, adding: “I have a flight on Saturday to go to Zhengzhou. I’m going to play my match on Tuesday or Wednesday. I have no time for preparation.
“I’m going to recover and see how it goes because I’ve been having some issues with my knee. I will see how it goes, my health. I’m now going to play few tournaments in China. They’re very important, of course. I’m trying to get back in Shenzhen [for the WTA Finals].”