The packed 2018 Mutua Madrid Open saw many first-round blockbusters, considering the fact that the top 16 seeds were not given a bye. The encounter between world number four Elina Svitolina and former top-15 player Alize Cornet is not an exception, with this intriguing contest kicking off play on Manolo Santana on the first day of action.
Both Cornet and Svitolina fell in the opening round here in Madrid during last year’s edition of the tournament, and this win will be important for either, as it would be the perfect stepping stone for them to earn points and rise in the rankings.
Recent form: Svitolina earns respectable results heading into Madrid
Svitolina recently reached her fifth quarterfinal of the year at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, where her opponent Marketa Vondrousova conceded defeat after being injured in the final set. Then, she played out another thriller against nemesis Caroline Garcia but lost a 7-6, 3-0 lead as she ultimately fell to yet another defeat to the Frenchwoman.
Svitolina, through her success in 2017, has packaged herself as an excellent clay-court player, coming into the clay-court season this year as one of the favorites for the Roland Garros title. She triumphed in Rome last year, though this is still a tricky-opening round match for the world number four to begin her Madrid campaign with. Should she be able to get past Cornet, a second-round meeting with the crafty Barbora Strycova or clay-court specialist Carla Suarez Navarro would ensue.
Recent form: Cornet in poor form as she fails to find her rhythm
After a fantastic start to her clay-court stretch with a quarterfinal run at the Volvo Car Open, where she ousted fellow countrywoman and world number seven Caroline Garcia, it has gone haywire for Cornet as she failed to replicate her success at other tournaments. She crashed out early at the Ladies Open Lugano, before being stunned by teenage prodigy 15-year-old Marta Kostyuk in the final round of qualifying at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
Head to Head: Svitolina holds the recent advantage
The numbers in the head-to-head record could not be very telling, as Svitolina has triumphed on both occasions they last met. Coincidentally, this will be the fourth time when they will meet on clay, and their last meeting saw the Ukrainian prevailing in straight sets at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia last year. Furthermore, the last time Cornet had clinched a win over Svitolina was in 2013.
Match Analysis: Can Svitolina take charge?
Svitolina seems to be more complete player here — able to hit with power and come up with some impressive counterpunching tennis. Her excellent footwork and precise hitting will definitely trouble Cornet, who will have problems overpowering her stronger opponent. Furthermore, Svitolina’s serve is becoming a real weapon this year, placing fifth on the ace leaderboard while winning 78.3 percent of all her service games.
Cornet will have to be on her top form, and daringly go for the lines which will aid in her attempt to dictate play. It would be a tough ask, but not an impossible task for the Frenchwoman to cause the upset. Svitolina comes into the encounter as an overwhelming favorite, and the win should belong to her unless the Frenchwoman produce an inspired performance.