Exhausted Svitolina elated to win Rogers Cup after gauntlet-like week

Ukraine's Elina Svitolina defeated Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets to capture the Rogers Cup Trophy and her fifth title of 2017.

TORONTO — Elina Svitolina needs some time to process what just happened. And if you’d had the weekend she just had, you would understand.

On Sunday, the 22-year-old Ukrainian earned a straight-sets victory over former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki to earn her first Rogers Cup title. That in itself is big, but then there’s this: It marked her third match in two days, and her third win over a player ranked in the world’s top six in less than 48 hours.

In other words, it was one heck of a weekend for the champ.

“I need some time still to really realize [what happened] because I had so many matches for the last two days,” a smiling Svitolina said, shortly after hoisting the trophy over her head following a 6-4, 6-0 win over Wozniacki. “It’s been really, really tough physically. …

“I’m just very happy that it’s finished. And with a title, it’s even more special.”

The win is Svitolina’s fifth of the season, and bumps her from No. 5 in the world to a career-high No. 4.

It wasn’t just a great weekend for Svitolina, it was a great week. She beat four top-nine players (Venus Williams is the fourth) and lost only one set en route to the title.

On Saturday, Svitolina beat the Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza in the morning to finish off a rain-delayed quarter-final that started a night earlier, and then she knocked off world No. 2 Simona Halep in straight sets on Saturday night.

So when she walked out to play the first game Sunday on centre court at the Aviva Centre, she wasn’t exactly a bundle of energy. Not only did she win four sets on Saturday but she said she probably had “too much coffee” and only got about four hours of sleep.

“I was very, very tired after the first game of the first set,” Svitolina said. “And I knew that I need to give everything, because Caroline doesn’t miss much. You have to work really hard to get unforced errors from her.

“I just decided, I’m going to play every ball and just leave everything on court.”

She did, using powerful groundstrokes and pounding the ball at sharp angles, forcing Wozniacki to make an uncharacteristic amount of unforced errors. And so, for the sixth time this season, Wozniacki finished runner up. The 27-year-old, who’s yet to win a title in 2017, fought back tears just after giving her on-court speech.

“It was a tough day,” Wozniacki said, later. “She played well. She mixed up the pace and made it uncomfortable for me out there.”

Especially on Wozniacki’s serve. Six times in the match, Svitolina managed to break the veteran from Denmark. After missing a backhand drop shot in the first set, Wozniacki smashed the net with her racquet, twice. Then she double-faulted — one of four times in the match — to end the game.

And though Wozniacki broke Svitolina right back in the next game to even the first set at 4-4, Svitolina broke Wozniacki once again, then served out the match. On set point, Svitolina watched Wozniacki’s return go long, and then pumped her first.

“Emotionally, I was relieved when I won the first set,” Svitolina said. “And then was playing better and better in the second.”

She dominated the second, giving Wozniacki very little.

“Obviously I had to go for it a bit more,” Wozniacki said. “It was longer rallies, so normally you have to the opportunity to have more unforced errors. And it is what it is.”

Serving at 5-0 for the match, Svitolina hammered a backhand winner to make it 40-15, and pumped her fist, with match point on the line.

When Wozniacki’s shot went long, Svitolina jumped up and down a few times obviously that was all adrenaline — and pumped her fists. The Ukrainian looked up at the sky while she walked up to the net to shake hands, then she covered her face with her hands, waved to the crowd and blew kisses.

Svitolina is now 3-0 against Wozniacki, and it’s the second time she’s bested her in a final, the first time this season coming in Dubai, also in straight sets.

A rising star on the tour, Svitolina has been steadily climbing the world rankings over the last couple of years, and this is her first season as a player in the top 10. She was 40th at the end of 2013, then 14th at the end of last season.

“I still have my career in front of me and hopefully for many more years to go,” she said. “[I] just always look at what’s in front of me.”

Now 5-0 in finals this season, Svitolina says there’s no secret to her success

“I just try to give 100 per cent. And that’s why I’m pretty tired now, because I left everything [on the court] today,” she said.

“Just happened,” she added, of the win. “I really couldn’t believe that it all finished and I’m holding the trophy.”

It might not have sunk in for Svitolina yet, but one thing’s for sure, the Rogers Cup champ is going to sleep well tonight.

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