Mertens into semi-finals
Originally published on 23/01/18 00:00
The Belgian maintained her exceptional form as she thrashed No.4 seed, Elina Svitolina, 6-4 6-0 to progress into the semi-finals.
It’s a 10th consecutive victory for the 22-year-old – who successfully defended her title in Hobart earlier this month – and she is yet to drop a set at the first Grand Slam of the year.
Mertens rise has been extraordinary. She began 2017 ranked No.120 in the world and is now just two victories away from emulating her compatriots Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters and becoming Belgian’s latest major champion.
The 22-year-old was the underdog prior to her last four date with Svitolina – and yet she managed to win at a canter. She rocked her opponent with her aggressive approach and capitalised on her punishing groundstrokes by venturing into the forecourt on a frequent basis.
“I’m without words,” said a jubilant Mertens post-match. ‘I’ve got all mixed emotions, all good emotions, and I gave it my all today. Of course it was a little stressful at the end, but I just played my game and it went well.”
Both players were bidding for a place in their first Grand Slam semi-final, and the opening exchanges were competitive. Mertens came under sustained pressure in her first service game, but managed to hold after seven torturous minutes.
The Belgian had survived her first test, and she quickly stamped her authority on the match. A pair of stinging returns, forehand and backhand, enabled her to achieve a break and establish a 2-1 lead.
Svitolina looked uncomfortable in the baseline battles and she was constantly on the defensive. Her counter-punching skills may be exceptional, but she was often too deep in the court to make an impact.
Mertens deservedly moved 5-2 ahead – and she was grateful to have a double-break advantage. The world No.36 faltered when she attempted to close out the set at the first time of asking, but she made no mistake on her second try.
Svitolina departed the court after the completion of the opener and was understandably frustrated with her performance. She tried to be more assertive in the second set, but her forehand misfired.
It was perhaps assumed the Ukrainian would burst into life in the second set, however the one-way traffic continued. Mertens developed such a substantial lead that nerves were not a factor when she attempted to apply the finishing touches.
It was a day to remember for Mertens, but Svitolina will rue a missed opportunity.