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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Elina Svitolina clinches WTA Finals title to complete 'special' week in Singapore

Ukrainian sixth seed the first player since Serena Williams in 2013 to win the title after going unbeaten throughout the tournament

Elina Svitolina celebrates with the WTA Finals trophy after beating Sloane Stephens in the final. AFP
Elina Svitolina celebrates with the WTA Finals trophy after beating Sloane Stephens in the final. AFP

Elina Svitolina recovered from a set down to beat Sloane Stephens as the Ukrainian sixth seed clinched the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals in Singapore on Sunday.

Svitolina, who ends the year with four WTA titles including a successful defence of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, was forced to dig deep to defeat the American fifth seed 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in two hours and 23 minutes.

It was the first time since Serena Williams in 2013 that a player has gone through the entire WTA Finals tournament undefeated. Svitolina defeated Cezch duo Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova, Danish second seed Caroline Wozniacki, and Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens en route to the final.

Svitolina has been in brilliant, aggressive form in Singapore, combining her impenetrable defence with searing groundstrokes to grind down her opponents. The Ukrainian's unwavering focus has also played a huge part, allowing her to fight back from positions of adversity to ultimately triumph.

"It's a very special moment for me, I played great tennis this week," Svitolina said on court after the match. "This is going to bring a lot of confidence, as I have finished the season on a high note."

Stephens said she was satisfied with her debut WTA Finals, with the 2017 US Open champion producing the comeback of the tournament in the semi-finals against Pliskova after losing the first eight games of the match.

"Not the way I wanted to finish but I worked really hard to get here and I can be really proud of my results," she said.

Having started slowly in the semi-finals, it was Stephens who made the running early and she broke Svitolina to love in the second game.

It was a matchup of similar styles between the athletic counterpunchers and lengthy rallies punctuated the contest.

Svitolina looked sluggish after playing the two longest matches in the tournament against Wozniacki and Bertens. She saved three break points in the sixth game but was unable to convert two chances of her own in Stephens' next service game.

Stephens' blistering forehand dictated proceedings, as she ran away with the first set.

A more aggressive Svitolina went for her shots and clawed back into the contest. Even though she still struggled on serve, Svitolina attacked on return and broke twice to wear down a suddenly passive Stephens.

Svitolina fittingly forced a decider in a tournament which has had a record-setting amount of three-set matches.

The 24-year-old's momentum continued as she produced an astounding run down winner to break Stephens in the second game.

But Stephens wouldn't roll over as she attacked Svitolina's serve and broke in the fifth game.

The twists continued as Svitolina hit back immediately and stormed home as a wayward backhand from Stephens sparked jubilation from the number six seed.

Svitolina could rise three spots to world number four on the rankings after her triumph and she has now won nine straight finals.

It ended the tournament's five-year run in Singapore with the season-finale moving to Shenzhen.

Earlier, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic played a masterclass to upset world number one Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova in the doubles decider.

The world number three held the edge throughout to triumph 6-4, 7-5 in 84 minutes.