Fri, Jun 22, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Svitolina advances to Birmingham quarters


Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina serves to France’s Alize Cornet in their Nature Valley Classic second-round match in Birmingham, England, on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

Fifth-ranked Elina Svitolina believes she is making progress on grass after reaching the Nature Valley Classic quarter-finals for the first time with a 6-4, 6-2 win on Wednesday over Alize Cornet of France in the Wimbledon warm-up tournament.

Svitolina was within a couple of wins of becoming world No. 1 earlier this year without ever enjoying much success on grass.

“I was expecting a good match with her [Cornet], because she plays well against the top players,” 23-year-old Svitolina said. “She certainly produced some great rallies, but I was very happy with my performance and happy to be in the quarter-finals for the first time here.”

A drive-volley and smash combination helped the Ukrainian break serve for the first time in the fifth game, and she never looked like relinquishing that advantage throughout the rest of the set.

Second-seeded Svitolina made a similar net approach, concluding it with a tidy drop shot volley in the third game of the second set, when she broke again.

A third break two games later — assisted by Cornet’s decision to stop a rally and seek an out call to a ball that landed on the baseline — effectively ended the match as a contest.

Cornet nevertheless contributed plenty to some fierce baseline exchanges.

With a long-term base in London, Svitolina said she is “a little bit English,” including a recent decision to acquire a home “so close, next door” to Wimbledon.

There is no doubt where her immediate ambition lies.

She next plays Mihaela Buzarnescu, a 30-year-old Romanian who is at a career-high ranking of 30th, having been ranked 267th a year ago.

Buzarnescu beat Petra Martic of Croatia 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Magdalena Rybarikova, who last year rose almost 90 places to reach a career-high No. 17 in March, once again showed her liking for grass with a fine recovery against Kristina Mladenovic to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.

The Slovak accelerated toward victory against the former top 10 player from France with an array of slice ground strokes, clever approaches and sharp volleys.

In the first round she beat third-seeded Karolina Pliskova for the loss of only five games, but found it tougher against Mladenovic.

“I think I’d been a bit passive. The key was when I played more cross-court slices and drops and made an early break in the second set,” Rybarikova said. “That’s the way I am trying to play on grass. I am thankful that I have the game to do that.”

The third set of a match, which lasted nearly two hours, took only 22 minutes.

Rybarikova next faces Slovenian qualifier Dalila Jakupovic, who on Tuesday overcame a difference in ranking of almost 100 places and saved four match points to beat seventh-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium.

Jakupovic on Wednesday followed up by getting past 18th-ranked Naomi Osaka of Japan, who was forced to retired injured after losing the first set 6-3.

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