Simona Halep vs Elina Svitolina live streaming, preview and tips: Can Halep change the result in a rematch of last year’s WTA Rome final?

Hannah Wilks in WTA 20 May 2018
  • Simona Halep faces defending champion Elina Svitolina in the WTA Rome final on Sunday
  • Halep vs Svitolina Internazionali BNL d'Italia tennis is live from Rome on Sunday at 1pm local/12pm BST
  • Watch and bet on tennis live from Rome at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify) 
Simona Halep (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

In a rematch of the 2017 Internazionali BNL d’Italia final, Simona Halep will try to change the result – and wrest the Rome title away from Elina Svitolina.

Simona Halep vs Elina Svitolina Internazionali BNL d'Italia tennis is streamed live from Rome on Sunday at 1pm local/12pm BST (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify). Watch and bet on tennis live from Rome at bet365 > live streaming > tennis

For the second straight year, Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina will face off in the final of the WTA Premier-5 Internazionali BNL d’Italia – can Halep score her first win over the Ukrainian for almost a year?

It’s already been a superbly successful week for Halep, who ensured she will hold on to the world no. 1 ranking next week – and thus be seeded top at the French Open – by beating Caroline Garcia in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia quarterfinals, and secured a first ever victory on clay over Maria Sharapova in the semifinals.

But Halep isn’t done yet – she wants to leave Rome with the title, thus avoiding the slightly ambiguous, if not embarrassing, situation of being ranked world no. 1 while holding only a single title, and an International-level title at that, having won the Shenzhen Open in the very first week of the season.

Successful as Halep’s 2017 season was, with her run to the French Open final and runner-up finishes in Rome, Cincinnati and Beijing, she only captured one title and then failed to defend that one last week at the Mutua Madrid Open when she was blown off the court by Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals. Coupled with a similar drubbing at the hands of Coco Vandeweghe in Stuttgart, where she was trying to defend semifinal points, it was starting to add up to a troubling pattern for Halep, so back-to-back victories over powerful aggressive players in the form of Garcia and Sharapova to make the final in Rome is a significant achievement ahead of Roland Garros.

While Halep’s victory over Garcia was exceedingly one-sided, however, the Romanian had to dig extremely deep to triumph over Sharapova in the semifinals – and she rose to the challenge superbly. Three times a champion in Rome and, of course, a two-time French Open winner (including in 2014 when she beat Halep in the final), Sharapova has been playing her finest tennis since her doping suspension this week and the Russian – despite the difficulties with her serve that are almost de rigeur at this point – was tremendously good against Halep on Saturday, especially in the first set which featured nine breaks of serve in ten games and saw Sharapova serve six double faults. Nevertheless, it was the Russian’s absolutely lethal returning and her ability to hit screaming winners on the run – she out-winnered Halep 15 to three in the first set – which saw the five-time Grand Slam champion take the first set 6-4.

Down but by no means out, Halep did an excellent job of turning things around. She realized that she had to serve more aggressively and force herself to mix up her deliveries despite admitting to Darren Cahill during an on-court coaching timeout that the fear of the Sharapova forehand return was in her head, and that’s precisely what she did. She not only broke Sharapova in the first game of the second set, but held to consolidate, then saved a point to break back at 3-1 with a big serve when she needed one. Sharapova, who had spent nine hours and 43 minutes on court in Rome to reach the semifinal compared to Halep’s two hours and 13 minutes, was starting to look half a step slower on the baseline and double-faulted to drop the second set 1-6. The decider featured a flurry of breaks, but Halep’s hold for 2-1 proved crucial to keep her from falling behind and it was an exhausted Sharapova who faltered down the stretch, while Halep reaped the rewards of having continued to produce some of her best tennis during more than two hours of relentless pummeling, recording a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory after winning the last two games of the match. 

Having secured the win over Sharapova will be a huge confidence boost for Halep ahead of the French Open, where she could still face the Russian early in the draw (although not in the first round, Sharapova having done enough this week to secure a seeding). Can she go one step further and avenge last year’s defeat to Svitolina?

Elina Svitolina (TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
World no. 4 Svitolina is already proving herself quite a dab hand at defending titles, having successfully retained her Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title back in February while her run so far in Rome has been hallmarked by quiet self-assurance. 

The Ukrainian has dropped just one set on her way to the final, the result of a slow start against an inspired Daria Kasatkina, and saw off two very different opponents – Angelique Kerber and Anett Kontaveit – in the quarterfinals and semifinals to book a place in her third final of 2018. After surviving a counterpunching battle with Kerber in which she succeeded in being the consistently more aggressive player without sacrificing accuracy, Svitolina faced an entirely different challenge against the devastating baseline power of Kontaveit, for which numerous top-10 opponents in 2018 including Jelena Ostapenko, Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki have been no match. While Kontaveit was broken to love to open in a fit of early nerves, the Estonian quickly regrouped and used her booming backhand to get back on serve at 2-2, so this was not a case of a more experienced player taking advantage of a nervy neophyte.

Rather, Svitolina managed to make Kontaveit hit more balls than any other opponent, with her unbelievable speed around the court and ability to soak up and redirect pace outlasting the Estonian in long rallies until she gave up the error. But Svitolina wasn’t simply retrieving and waiting for Kontaveit to miss; she took advantage of the younger woman’s refusal to come forward and attack the net or take balls out of the air by exploiting the space opened up. Fired up but cool-headed, Svitolina broke once more in each set but stayed very strong on her own serve to record a 6-4, 6-3 victory over her increasingly demoralized opponent.

‘Today, I think I was very solid with my performance. This was really, really good,’ Svitolina said afterwards. ‘I'm very proud of this, that I could stay really consistent all match.  
‘Last year I was more, you know, gaining experience, gaining confidence. This year, you know, I tried to think that this is a part of my game, a part of me...I'm happy the way I handled and the way I played today under pressure this week against some really good players. This is what I have been looking for and I did it well. I know there is one match to go, and I will give my best shot tomorrow.’

The head-to-head between Halep and Svitolina is perfectly poised at 3-3, although it’s notable that Halep has only won one of the four they’ve played since 2014 – i.e. since Svitolina joined her in the top echelons – and that one was their quarterfinal meeting at the French Open last summer, when Svitolina worked her way to a commanding lead and then went completely off the rails, ending up being bageled in the final set, 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-0. Last year’s final in Rome was marred by an unlucky ankle injury early doors for Halep – hopefully nothing similar will happen this year. All things being equal, Svitolina looks tremendously fit, totally focused and very hungry to defend her title – and she’s getting better and better at working out ways to maximize the attack of her fundamentally counterpunching game. If history is any guide, she should score her third straight win over Halep to defend her Internazionali BNL d’Italia title.

Halep vs Svitolina Internazionali BNL d’Italia tennis is live from Rome on Sunday at 1pm local/12pm BST. Watch and bet on the match live at bet365 > live streaming > tennis > Simona Halep  vs Elina Svitolina (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify) 

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Simona Halep vs Elina Svitolina live streaming, preview and tips: Can Halep change the result in a rematch of last year’s WTA Rome final?

Simona Halep vs Elina Svitolina live streaming, preview and tips for the WTA Rome Internazionali BNL d’Italia semifinal match on Sunday 20 May 2018: Svitolina aims for a third straight win over Halep and a successful defense of her WTA Rome title. We preview the match and show you how you can watch the match live and bet in-play.

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