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Elina Svitolina must walk more miles in complicated shoes

Matt Zemek



Danielle Parhizkaran - USA TODAY SPORTS

Do you want to be a sportswriter? Consider the Qatar Open semifinal between Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep on Friday, and tell me which angle you would choose to emphasize after Halep’s third-set comeback from 1-4 and break point down:

Would you choose to focus on Halep’s brilliance?

Would you choose to focus on Svitolina losing a large lead to Halep, having lost a set-and-5-1 lead in the Roland Garros quarterfinals two years ago?

Would you choose to focus on how good a match this was, or on the fact that Svitolina popped up a volley at 4-4 and 30-all in the final set, which enabled Halep to get to the ball and hit a dazzling down-the-line forehand pass, en route to breaking serve for *5-4 and then closing out the match with a strong hold?

Would you focus on how encouraging this match should be for Svitolina, given that she was — and is — right there with Halep, playing a high-level match on even (if not favorable) terms for much of the evening? Or, would you focus on how the stinging nature of this loss will reinforce old demons for a player who still hasn’t made her first major-tournament semifinal?

Would you choose to focus on the positives, the negatives, or the attributes of Halep’s performance?

There is no wrong answer.

How well Svitolina played; how much this defeat could potentially weigh on her in 2019; and how beautifully Halep responded to her 1-4 third-set deficit are all good points of focus.

Elina Svitolina is an athlete and not a commentator. It is up to her to process this match in a way which enables her to move forward with a resolute and upbeat spirit.

As for the writers in the crowd: Pick your angle. Chances are it is a valid one.

My only word of caution here: Don’t make Doha into Wimbledon or Roland Garros. The key for Svitolina is to make sure that what happens in February doesn’t bleed into the bigger moments of the tennis season.

After a match like this, however, it is not easy for Svitolina to compartmentalize what just happened to her. Successfully carrying out that task is her most important job right now.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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