January 21, 2019 / 2:50 AM / 5 months ago

Tennis: Svitolina masters Keys to unlock passage to last eight

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Elina Svitolina recovered after dropping the second set to secure a place in the Australian Open quarter-finals with a 6-2 1-6 6-1 victory over American Madison Keys on Monday.

Tennis - Australian Open - Fourth Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, January 21, 2019. Ukraine's Elina Svitolina celebrates her win against Madison Keys of the U.S. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

The sixth seed, who has claimed 13 tour titles including at last year’s WTA Finals in Singapore, has struggled to make an impact at the Grand Slams but the Ukrainian is now hoping to progress beyond the last eight at a major for the first time.

“(Singapore) gave me a huge boost of confidence, so I don’t think about the other, the past anymore,” the 24-year-old Svitolina, who has reached two quarter-finals in Melbourne to go with two more at the French Open, told reporters.

“I only look forward. I look for next challenge. I try to win as many matches as I can, as many titles as I can, and this is the goal for the year.”

Reaching the last four will be a tough task, however, with Svitolina next meeting U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka after the Japanese fourth seed defeated Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova 4-6 6-3 6-4 in their fourth round encounter.

Svitolina started brightly and raced to a 4-0 lead with two early breaks of serve as her 17th-seeded American opponent struggled to find her range and rhythm.

After returning to the court from a medical timeout to have her toe taped up, Svitolina converted her second set point when Keys found the net with a return as she registered her 11th unforced error of the match.

Keys, a quarter-finalist in Melbourne last year, roared back in the second set as she finally managed to tame her powerful groundstrokes, sprinting to a 5-0 lead before converting her second set point to level the match.

SUNNY SIDE DOWN

Svitolina was wobbling but the tenacious base-liner dug deep to save five break points in a marathon third game of the decider lasting more than 16 minutes, the vital hold giving her the impetus to kick on for victory.

“I knew that I had to be strong mentally and physically in that point, because the sun was very strong in that side, and I knew that I’m going to have a chance on the next game on her serve,” Svitolina added.

The inability to secure the break appeared to knock the stuffing out of the 2017 U.S. Open finalist in the next game as the American committed three more unforced errors and served a double-fault to hand Svitolina the break.

Sensing victory, Svitolina did not allow Keys any more opportunities and broke again in the sixth game before converting her first match point to seal the contest in an hour and 36 minutes.

“I always try to put pressure on the opponent. I think I’m in quarter-final because I have been solid in all the matches. It worked really good,” added Svitolina, who performed a celebratory dance after securing the win.

“I try to be there all the time with my game, try to bring the best. And I know that I can challenge good players and I can win. The Singapore week showed that I can be, you know, out there and winning tough matches.”

Svitolina and Osaka have met five times before with the Ukrainian holding a 3-2 lead in their head-to-head rivalry.

Editing by John O'Brien

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