By Mike McIntyre
Photos by Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Fourth seeded Elina Svitolina is widely considered one of the favorites to emerge with the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen in two week's time at Roland Garros. Her French Open started with her looking anything but the player who could do that. The Ukrainian found herself down two breaks of serve at 1-5 in the opening set. Svitolina then settled down and rattled-off six straight games to take the set 7-5 and give her fans a much needed chance to calm down. She would take the match 7-5, 6-3.
Asked after the match about her slow start the Ukrainian said, "It’s probably a mixture of things. She was striking the ball well, I was a little bit off sometimes going for too much. It was a mixture of things…of course I want to prevent doing this again next match.”
Svitolina's stats for the match reveal a first serve that was clicking at merely 63% and allowed her to win just 57% of those points. She actually won a higher amount of second serve points at 62% and saved 3 of 6 break points that she faced versus only 6 of 11 saved by her opponent Tomljanovic. Svitolina's winner to error margin was 22-26 while Tomljanovic was heavier with the mistakes and had a 21-35 ratio between the two statistics.
A year ago Svitolina took down Yaroslava Shvedova by a more routine score of 6-4, 6-3 in the opening round before falling to Simona Halep in the quarterfinals where she held a 6-3, 5-1 lead but allowed the Romanian back into the match and saw it ultimately slip away 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-0. It was a defeat that Svitolina admits was a tough learning experience that she now uses to motivate herself in order to move towards her first major title on the WTA.
In 2018 the 23 year old has already captured three titles in Brisbane, Dubai and most recently on the clay in Rome. She successfully defended her Italian Open title there last week to kick-start an otherwise mediocre clay season and re-establish herself as a threat in Paris.
In her post match press conference on Sunday Svitolina eluded to the fact that she was going to head right back out onto the practice courts. "I know that I have to put lots of hours on court to get better. For me, the only way to get better is to practice. To get better, to improve my game each day, each match.”
Svitolina will next face 20 year old Viktoria Kuzmova who defeated 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 7-6(2), 7-6(2). The younger Kuzmova made the finals of the 2016 Junior US Open in New York City and likely just ended 37 year old Schiavone's French Open career in the Italian's 18th consecutive appearance there.
The Ukrainian does not play her second round match against Kuzmova until Wednesday and joked that she might, "Go back home and come back" before then. When she does return to action expect a cleaner performance than the one we saw today as Svitolina works towards making her first career major semi-final or better here in Paris.