Tennis: Elina Svitolina defies back injury to book dream ASB Classic final against Coco Gauff

ASB Classic organisers have their dream final to start 2024, as Elina Svitolina booked a deciding showdown against Coco Gauff on Sunday, pitting the tournament's top two seeds against each other for the trophy.  

Second seed Svitolina battled a back injury, and was forced to come from behind after dropping the first set to China's Wang Xiyu, but showed incredible character to claim a 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory in a match that lasted close to two-and-a-half hours.  

With victories over Grand Slam winners Caroline Wozniacki and Emma Raducanu already under her belt, Svitolina will enter Sunday's final with a greater physical workload than Gauff - who by comparison hasn't dropped a set in the last two editions of the tournament.

Elina Svitolina receives treatment for a back injury.
Elina Svitolina receives treatment for a back injury. Photo credit: Getty Images

Despite entering the semi-final as the last unseeded player left in the tournament, Wang didn't let her underdog tag hold her back in the first set.  

Two early breaks of Svitolina's serve gave the 22-year-old a 4-1 advantage, before a back injury saw the match halted for the Ukrainian second seed to undergo treatment.  

But despite Svitolina breaking serve once she was back on her feet, Wang rallied back to go 5-2 up, and hold at the other end to take the first set in 49 minutes.  

Dropping just her second set of the tournament, and first since her second-round victory over Emma Raducanu, Svitolina saved a break point, and held her own serve in response.  

Svitolina continued on through clear pain, as the scoring went with serve throughout the second set.  

At 5-4, the second seed finally managed to break Wang's serve, and square the ledger at one set apiece and force a deciding third.  

But taking the second set also took its toll on Svitolina, as her back complaint returned to force a delay to the final set.   

Up 2-1, Svitolina's defiance continued by breaking Wang's serve, and then again at 4-1 to put herself in a position to serve for the match.

Wang, though, broke back and held at the other end to make Svitolina wait. But with match point, Svitolina teased Wang with a delicate drop shot, that caught her opponent off guard and completed a remarkable comeback.   

The victory gives Svitolina the chance at an 18th WTA singles title, and her first since defeating Anna Blinkova in Strasbourg, France in May 2023.  

On the other side, Gauff has won six singles titles - most recently lifting the US Open in September last year by defeating Aryna Sabalenka.