Sunday, March 10, 2019 - Elina Svitolina plays Daria Gavrilova in the 3rd round of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 2 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open)
Ashleigh Barty has every reason to be confident heading into the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open this week – every reason except her head-to-head with Elina Svitolina. The highly watchable Australian has quietly become a force to be reckoned with this season, amassing a solid 10-2 record courtesy of improved fitness and a greater grasp on her wide array of tactical options.
Likely an 0-4 record against her fourth round opponent is one too many number four’s for Barty to feel comfortable with heading into the Tuesday clash. Svitolina at this stage in her career is a season Top 10’er who, despite a modest record at the Grand Slams, has made a habit of strong and consistent results at the top tier WTA events, while the 22-year-old Australian has yet to make it past the fourth round of a WTA tournament of this caliber.
In the past, Svitolina’s tenacious defensive skills and comfort in handling the Barty sliced-backhand has allowed her to dig out of significant first-set deficits in their previous two meetings. Her pedigree in finding solutions against a variety of aggressive game styles is renowned, seeing her claim wins over both the rising Sofia Kenin as well as Barty’s compatriot Daria Gavrilova in the previous round.
A player as tactically focused as the 22-year-old Aussie won’t be pleased with her hitherto inability to crack the Svitolina code. Wins over the talented Tatjana Maria and the ball-bruising Jennifer Brady will give her confidence on the courts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where she has only made one previous appearance – a second-round loss to fellow-Aussie Sam Stosur last year.
The fifth edition of the Barty vs Svitolina presents the opportunity for both to reach their first quarterfinal at the BNP Paribas Open as well as a chance to make a statement in their rivalry. For the 24-year-old Ukrainian, it’s a shot at maintaining dominance over a player she’s sure to see more of in the future, while for Barty – the prospect of flipping the Svitolina script will be a key agenda item if she’s to finally crack the Top 10 in the WTA rankings.