SINGAPORE – An unwavering Elina Svitolina claimed the biggest title of her career with a gritty comeback victory against Sloane Stephens at the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore.
The Ukrainian once again dug deep to triumph 3-6 6-2 6-2 in two hours and 23 minutes on Sunday.
She is the first player to go through the WTA Finals undefeated since Serena Williams in 2013.
Svitolina has been in brilliant, aggressive form in Singapore, beating defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, Czech players Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova at the group stage, and Kiki Bertens in the semi-finals.
“It’s a very special moment for me, I played great tennis this week,” Svitolina said 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. “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 match-up of similar styles between the athletic counter-punchers, 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 her way 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.