Halep, Svitolina dig deep for victory

SHENZHEN • Wimbledon champion Simona Halep battled back from a set down last night to beat Bianca Andreescu 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3 in her first match at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen.

In the duo's first meeting, tournament debutante Andreescu, 19, drew first blood when the Canadian took the first set after breaking her more-experienced opponent to convert her second set point.

The Romanian world No. 5, a finalist in this season-ending competition in 2014, battled hard and saved a match point in the second set to eventually force the decider.

US Open champion Andreescu returned for the final set somewhat subdued following a medical timeout to treat her back at the end of the second.

She found Halep shifting up a gear having recovered her momentum, with the former world No. 1 taking the match in 2hr 30min.

The world No. 4 has now lost two matches in a row after a 17-match winning streak. It marks the first time she has lost two in a row since July-August last year.

Halep said: "It was a very tough match. I knew that she's a great player and she's playing till the end without giving up.

"I had to fight. I'm a little bit dead but I have time tomorrow to recover."

Earlier yesterday, Elina Svitolina launched her title defence with a gritty 7-6 (14-12), 6-4 victory over second seed Karolina Pliskova in the US$14 million (S$19 million) tournament.

The Ukrainian extended her winning streak at the event to seven consecutive matches after she went undefeated en route to claiming the trophy last year, while also winning her last round-robin match the year before.

The 25-year-old is the only player in this year's WTA Finals field yet to win a title this year. But she could be saving her best for last, as she did in Singapore 12 months ago.

"The tie-break was the longest of my career!" the eighth-ranked player said after beating the Czech world No. 2.

"Definitely it's a big privilege for me, I still am not sure I believe that I won this event last year. It's a big honour for me and I'm enjoying every moment."

DPA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2019, with the headline 'Halep, Svitolina dig deep for victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe