World number six Elina Svitolina got off to a perfect start in 2018 after she ousted former top-10 player Carla Suarez Navarro in a tricky first-round encounter at the Brisbane International, capturing the 6-2, 6-4 win on New Year’s Day.
It was a clinical performance from the Ukrainian, who played some world-class aggressive tennis to seal her spot in the second round, where she would be facing the dangerous youngster Ana Konjuh for a place in the quarterfinals.
Svitolina strolls to take the first set
Svitolina seemed like she had a fantastic offseason as her serves looked to be peaking during the early stages of the match, with its speed consistently at 170 km/h while also starting to dictate play with her powerful groundstrokes. She got through a tricky opening game before making the first breakthrough, exploiting the vulnerable serves of Suarez Navarro. Fending off a break point, the Ukrainian consolidated the break for a commanding 3-0 lead.
It was break points galore, but neither of them was able to convert as Svitolina had the golden opportunity to extend her lead in the fourth game with Suarez Navarro unable to get things started. Owning two break points, the third seed went for too much, which instead backfired as she allowed the Spaniard to get on board.
It seemed to have given her the confidence as she earned her first break point of the match, but Svitolina’s serve was just too good, maintaining her steady lead on the scoreboard. Suarez Navarro continued to face troubles on her serve but maintained her composure as she kept her chances alive. Though, she was ultimately broken to love in the eighth game, allowing Svitolina to storm to claim the first set 6-2 after 38 minutes.
Mid-match wobble but Svitolina closes out the win
After claiming the opening set, Svitolina had a slight misfocus — which Suarez Navarro took full advantage of. The Spaniard started to become more aggressive, especially on her backhand side, and a beautiful winner from that wing helped her to grab her first break of the match. Taking a 2-0 lead after consolidating the break, Svitolina realized she was in deep trouble and therefore upped her level of play, rattling off three consecutive games within a blink of an eye.
Suarez Navarro made multiple changes in her game, and one obvious feature was using her backhand as a lethal weapon. Missing out on a perfect chance to regain her lead in the seventh game, especially after trying to be conservative on a second-serve return on a break point, proved to be the turning point of the match as Svitolina hung on in the marathon game. Serving to stay in the match, Suarez Navarro lost a 30-0 lead and conceded the last four points for Svitolina to seal the win in an hour and 29 minutes of play. Blasting 32 winners past her opponent, alongside an impressive 11 aces, it was a confidence-boosting performance for Svitolina ahead of the new season.