Tennis: Svitolina & Zverev surprise winners in Rome

Elina Svitolina stretching for a return in the final of the Italian Open yesterday. She upset Simona Halep 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 and takes the lead in the WTA Finals race.
Elina Svitolina stretching for a return in the final of the Italian Open yesterday. She upset Simona Halep 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 and takes the lead in the WTA Finals race.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Ukrainian upsets injured Halep in three sets while German stuns world No. 2 Djokovic

ROME • The Italian Open finals yesterday threw up a double shocker.

Elina Svitolina continued her brilliant season with a clinical 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 upset win over injury-hit Simona Halep in the women's final.

The men's final that followed saw 20-year-old German Alexander Zverev, the 16th seed, shock world No. 2 Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3.

The eighth-seeded Ukrainian Svitolina had advanced to her maiden Rome final when Spanish semi-final opponent Garbine Muguruza, the French Open champion, retired injured as she trailed 4-1 .

But Svitolina, who ousted Czech second seed Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-finals, showed she was fully deserving of her spot, overcoming a tough first set against the sixth seed to level the match in a fiercely contested second set.

Halep, who won the Madrid Open last week, needed treatment after going over on her right ankle in the second set as she hit a return from the baseline.

Although her movement did not initially appear compromised either side of a visit from the trainer, she was soon guilty of increasingly frequent errors.

In the decider, the Romanian - who had won 26 of her past 30 meetings on clay - was visibly hurting and was helpless to prevent Svitolina from claiming her fourth title of the season after wins in Taipei, Dubai and Istanbul.

IMPROVING BIT BY BIT

Every day I'm just trying to work on my mental part, my physical, my tennis. Everything just came together and I'm very happy that it's happened in such a big tournament.

ELINA SVITOLINA, on winning her first Italian Open title.

"Sorry guys for third set," Halep told the crowd. "It was a little tough for me to get through but Elina played great."

The Romanian was bidding to win her 11th match in a row after her Madrid victory, which was her 16th WTA career titles from 24 finals.

Svitolina also required medical treatment from a trainer midway through the second set, for an apparent problem with her left leg.

"Hopefully we'll recover, me and Simona, because we're struggling a bit physically," she said.

Svitolina now has a tour-leading 31 match wins this year and takes over the lead from Pliskova in the Race to Singapore.

She is set to rise to a new career-high ranking of world No. 6. The Ukranian's good results have been coming for a while, as she defeated Serena Williams at the Rio Olympics last year and has beaten Kerber on more than one occasion.

The 22-year-old has now placed herself among the favourites for the French Open, which starts next Sunday, with the field seemingly wide open in the absence of Williams and Maria Sharapova.

"Every day I'm just trying to work on my mental part, my physical, my tennis," she said. "Everything just came together and I'm very happy that it's happened in such a big tournament."

With only a week to go until the main-draw action begins in Paris, Halep will hope she has not suffered significant damage to her ankle.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'Svitolina & Zverev surprise winners in Rome'. Print Edition | Subscribe