Hong Kong Open: Elina Svitolina wants new coach next season after Wang Qiang loss, with Singapore place in balance
China No 1 finishes the job at Victoria Park, but world No 5 faces an off-season full of upheaval while she chases wild cards in bid for WTA Finals spot
Elina Svitolina has said she plans to overhaul her coaching team in the off-season after a disappointing quarter-final exit to Wang Qiang at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open.
The Ukrainian was given a lifeline by the rain at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open on Friday night, but Wang quickly finished the job on Saturday afternoon, reaching the semi-finals with a 6-2, 6-4 victory.
It was a disappointing end to the week for the 24-year-old top seed, who split with coach Thierry Ascione last month. She had opted to work with Nick Saviano on a trial basis, starting in Wuhan, but has also ended that partnership.
Svitolina is now working solely with Andrew Bettles until the end of the season, and said she is looking to hire both a new main coach and fitness coach for 2019.
“[Bettles] knows my game, I prefer to finish my season with him,” she said. “He’s the only person in the team now. So I’m gonna see, lots of decisions to make after the season is done.”
On Friday, Wang looked to be cruising to the biggest win of her career in terms of her opponent’s ranking – Svitolina is world No 5 – before heavy showers saw play suspended overnight in their quarter-final at Victoria Park.
Up 6-2, 5-3, China’s No 1 was serving for the match, potentially three points away from booking a last-four showdown against former world No 1 Garbine Muguruza.
Svitolina managed to break the world No 24, however, when the players returned to Centre Court. She then held her next service game, with Wang given a second chance to serve out the win.
This time Wang did not falter, sealing victory – and a place in the last four – with an ace
Defeat means Svitolina is still sweating on her place at the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore, with three spots up for grabs and five women fighting for them.
“I don’t know about the wild cards, I requested wild cards anywhere, but I’m not sure I’m gonna get one,” she said. “I’ve got no choice now. I’m gonna speak with my team and see what the options are.
“Yesterday she [Wang] was playing really great tennis, I was missing a lot, my game was really off. I was trying to come back into the match to still try to go for my shots but unfortunately it was a really bad performance from me. I was really disappointed I couldn’t even play 20 per cent of the game I can play.”
“I always try to stay positive, to play the match until the last point,” Svitolina added. “I felt that if I try to fight for every ball, I might have a chance.
“I’m not the kind of person who is gonna give the match easily, I’m always fighting, trying to play my best when things aren’t going right. This is the only way you become a champion, in the tough matches.
“I was just trying to play the extra ball over the net, you never know what’s gonna happen. I came back to 5-4 and then there were two or three tough rallies. She had the advantage and the confidence in the end.”
Wang’s victory continued a year of consistent progress, with four of her five total wins against top 10 players coming in 2018.
The 26-year-old beat Venus Williams (then No 9) at the French Open earlier this summer, and then-No 7 Karolina Pliskova twice at Wuhan and Beijing, helping her reach a career-high ranking of 24.
Wang said her target for 2019 was to crack the top 20, but she may achieve that dream before this season is over.
First she has to face two-time major champion Muguruza, though, in what should be a thrilling semi-final this afternoon.
And there’s a chance home fans could see an all-Chinese final on Sunday, with China No 2 Zhang Shuai facing 18-year-old Dayana Yestremska, ranked 102, in Saturday’s first semi-final.