Svitolina sends Australian Open warning with Brisbane triumph

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BRISBANE — Ukrainian Elina Svitolina got the perfect boost ahead of the Australian Open by lifting the Brisbane International title with a 6-2, 6-1 win over qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Saturday.

Svitolina, ranked sixth in the world, fired 10 aces and never faced a break point on the way to a 10th career tour title. 

She raced to a 3-0 lead before 23-year-old Belarusian Sasnovich found her range with some lethal backhands and briefly threatened to make it a contest. 

Svitolina, however, unleashed a series of powerful groundstrokes to break again and clinch the first set, before running away with the second to claim the title in just over an hour. 

“It was a tough, tough offseason,” third seed Svitolina, also 23, said on court after the match. “To start with a trophy is always very, very special.” 

World No. 88 Sasnovich, bidding to become the first qualifier to win the title in Brisbane, ran out of gas in her eighth match of the week and only her third career encounter against a top 10 player. 

She had stunned sixth seed Kristina Mladenovic in the opening round and defeated last year’s runner-up Alize Cornet in the quarter-finals before battling past Anastasija Sevastova in the last four. 

“Sorry for my play today,” Sasnovich told the Brisbane crowd. “It was an incredible week for Elina — she was better than me and deserved to win. It was a good week for me.” 

Svitolina, having landed her first silverware of the season, heads to the Australian Open with her eyes fixed firmly on a maiden Grand Slam trophy. The tournament begins on Jan. 15 at Melbourne Park.

Kyrgios to face

Harrison in final

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios battled past defending champion Grigor Dimitrov 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 to set up a final against American Ryan Harrison at the Brisbane International on Saturday.

After losing the first set, the No. 3 seed stamped his authority on the second, converting two break points to force a decider for a third consecutive match this week. 

“I knew that I had to do something a little bit differently today. I couldn’t give him too much rhythm,” Kyrgios said after the match. 

The 22-year-old Kyrgios was dominant on serve, hitting 19 aces and winning 82 per cent of his first-serve points, and broke Dimitrov in the seventh game of the final set to claim his first victory over the Bulgarian in three meetings. 

World No. 21 Kyrgios could clinch his first ATP Tour title on home soil on Sunday and make a huge statement ahead of the Australian Open, which begins at Melbourne Park on January 15. 

In the other semi-final, Harrison came back from a set down to end the dream run of Australian wildcard Alex De Minaur in a 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 victory. 

The 18-year-old De Minaur raced past Harrison to claim the first set before forcing a tiebreak in the second, where he cruised to a 5-3 lead. 

Standing just two points away from his first career final, De Minaur committed a string of errors, including a double fault to concede a set point to Harrison, allowing the World No. 47 back into the match. 

De Minaur started flat in the decider and Harrison pounced on the opportunity, breaking his opponent’s serve twice to lead 5-1. 

Harrison was broken while trying to serve out the match at 5-2, but recovered and held to love to reach only his third ATP Tour final, all of which have come since February last year. 

Heading into the final, Kyrgios has a 2-0 head-to-head advantage with Harrison, yet, to take a set off the Australian. 

“I know that he’s a dangerous opponent. He can serve very, very well and he’s obviously won a lot of matches here,” Kyrgios said. 

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