Tennis: Ukraine's Elina Svitolina outlasts American Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 for first WTA Finals title

 Ukraine's Elina Svitolina in action against USA's Sloane Stephens in the final of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals at the Indoor Stadium on Oct 28, 2018. She steadied herself after losing the first set to win her biggest title.
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina in action against USA's Sloane Stephens in the final of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals at the Indoor Stadium on Oct 28, 2018. She steadied herself after losing the first set to win her biggest title.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Elina Svitolina of Ukraine won the biggest title of her career on Sunday (Oct 28), defeating Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 to win the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.

It is the first time the world No. 7 has beaten No. 6 Stephens on a hard court.

"It's definitely a very special moment for me. I know I played great tennis this week and I'm very happy to share this moment with you guys. Definitely, Singapore is going to stay for a very long time in my mind," Svitolina said in an on-court interview.

"I want to say congratulations to Sloane for a great season. It's been amazing to play against her here and, of course, I want to thank the crowd.

"Unfortunately, this is the last year that Singapore is hosting this amazing tournament. I'm very sad, but I just want to thank all the fans and the sponsors for making this event amazing. It's very, very special for everyone."

Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion, dominated early in the first set, dictating the points well and taking advantage of Svitolina's unforced errors to build a 3-0 lead.

Svitolina, 24, saved three break points to hold serve and trail 4-2. The Ukrainian had two opportunities to break Stephens' serve in the next game, but the latter saved the first break point with a forehand winner down the line and the second with a backhand cross-court winner.

The 25-year-old Stephens continued to stay in control, winning the first set 6-3 after a Svitolina backhand found the net.

With both trying to put pressure on each other as they rallied, Svitolina was the steadier of the two in the second set.

She broke Stephens' serve to go up 3-1, only to get broken back.

But she did not relinquish her lead from then on, out-rallying Stephens to win the set and force a decider.

In the second game of the third set, a Stephens shot clipped the net cord and bounced to the other side of the court.

Svitolina charged, got to the ball and dropped it neatly across the net to win the point and the game.

She consolidated the break after a 10-minute game to lead 3-0, but Stephens won the next two games to get back on serve. The American then played an erratic game to give her opponent a 4-2 lead.

There was no looking back for Svitolina, who defended solidly and attacked when she could. On her first match point, a Stephens backhand flew wide as Svitolina fell to the ground in joy.

Despite her defeat, Stephens said: "My first time in Singapore was incredible... Obviously, it's not the way I wanted to finish, but I worked really hard to get here and I can be really proud of my result today."