1-6 1-6, 1-6 2-6, 4-6 2-6 and 2-6 1-6. Elina Svitolina has gone out of four events so far this year without much fight. Following her swift exit from Hua-Hin last week the world number six was set a difficult task in Dubai. The draw had her up against Garbine Muguruza but a shuffled around following Kiki Bertens’ withdrawal set up her against qualifier Jennifer Brady.
The match lasted an hour, Brady won 6-2 6-1 and has been in very good form this season with wins over Barty and Sharapova as well as good performances against Kvitova and Halep in defeats. It was not the ideal draw for the Ukrainian number one.
Where next for Eli? She does have Doha next week where eight of the top ten are set to play in the first Premier 5 event of the year but some work is needed outside of match play and would you rule out skipping Doha right now?
There were a few things that caught the eye for me and they were Elina’s return of serve positioning, shot depth and footwork. If these are off the pace then it’s tough and she found that out.
High return position, short return and retreat.
It was a cash of return serve high up the court with a shot return, retreat and repeat from Elina, I just didn’t get it.
Eli won 19 points out of 53 on the American’s serve which is around 36%, her season percentage of return games won was 32% coming into Dubai was 70 on the WTA rankings but on return points was 53rd which isn’t much better.
So, lets have a look…
There is nothing wrong with returning second serve this high but when you have 53rd ranked return points won on the tour to date and 74th in the return games won then there’s a problem.
High and positive return position but a short return which then opens up the court and this was a consistent theme.
It begs the question if you’re going to sit so high up and return short you might as well sit further back and play the same shot.
It is a weird one to be so high and then be five metres behind the baseline a few moments later but that is where we are at right now.
For me, there just seems to be confusion in what the plan is. Is Elina a counter puncher? Defending? Attacker? It just seems to be whatever happens happens.
On this one, it’s another high return (yellow circle) and then taken back behind the baseline and from here there is little chance of getting in a position to win the point unless there’s was an error from Brady.
Off the pace with footwork
Nothing in tennis matters unless your feet are set, if you\re footwork is off your shots will be and it can go messy quite quick.
This position here is very good from Eli. If right now continues to shift one more step for the left and stands still and waits for the ball before hitting that backhand down the line or cross court it is set up lovely for her to counter-punch from a metre behind the baseline.
Instead, we got this…
I was surprised to see why Elina decided to push closer to the ball, the wingspan of her arms would have reached. Instead she has pushed closer and failed to extend her arms to create power on the backhand and you can see from her footwork she isn’t set.
It is a tough run for Eli right now, if I’m honest I’m not completely surprised though, when her game is on par it is so good to watch but even with her big runs at Wimbledon and New York last season I felt there was a struggle against ‘in form’ players and we have seen that against Danielle Collins, Garbine Muguruza and Jennifer Brady this year already.
Doha will be interesting, will Eli head there? It is the last stop before Indian Wells and Miami.