French Open: Elina Svitolina overcomes Ajla Tomljanovic in straight sets

Elina Svitolina had a slow start but she lived up to her favourite's label at the French Open as she stormed back to defeat Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-3 in the opening round.

French Open: Elina Svitolina overcomes Ajla Tomljanovic in straight sets
Elina Svitolina reaches out for a shot | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Europe
Elina Svitolina
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Ajla Tomljanovic

Elina Svitolina overcame a slow start and settled her nerves as one of the favourites as she triumphed over the dangerous Ajla Tomljanovic in the opening round of the 2018 French Open. The world number four retrieved from a 1-5 deficit in the first set and rattled off eight straight games before settling in for the routine 7-5, 6-3 win after 89 minutes of play.

Svitolina was erratic in the early stages which resulted in 26 errors accumulated throughout the encounter, but did well enough to blast 22 winners as well. Tomljanovic was a victim of the overwhelming pressure and she committed 35 errors and three of her five double faults came while serving for the set. Svitolina will now face Viktoria Kuzmova in the second round, with a decent chance to make the second week.

Elina Svitolina applauds the supportive crowd after the win | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Europe
Elina Svitolina applauds the supportive crowd after the win | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Europe

Svitolina produces incredible and rattles off six consecutive games

It was a bleak start to the match for both players with both of them trying to gain the rhythm and settle into the conditions. Nonetheless, it was Svitolina who grabbed the quick service hold in the opening game. Tomljanovic looked in top form, moving Svitolina all around the baseline and dictating play with her solid groundstrokes. She got on board with a comfortable hold before surprisingly making the first breakthrough.

Tomljanovic snatched eight of the last 10 points to draw first blood — and Svitolina looked way out of her usual form with errors spraying from every part of her game. A stunning ace from the Australian allowed her to fend off a break point before closing out a nervy game to consolidate the break for a commanding 3-1 lead.

Ajla Tomljanovic made a thunderous start but failed to capitalize on her chances | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Europe
Ajla Tomljanovic made a thunderous start but failed to capitalize on her chances | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Europe

Despite some great touch at the net from the world number four, she was unable to translate those successes to her baseline after Tomljanovic successfully broke down her shots, forcing errors out of the Ukrainian for yet another break and the upset was truly brewing after Tomljanovic easily held her serve to love, and extended her lead to 5-1.

The nerves, unfortunately, started to kick in for Tomljanovic. As the finishing line edged closer, the amount of pressure weighed more on the underdog’s shoulders. Her shots were getting tighter and Svitolina took advantage to gain the rhythm and confidence. The fourth seed was stepping up her game whilst Tomljanovic struggled to find her first serves, including throwing in a double-fault on her sole set point and three in total during the eighth game alone.

Elina Svitolina won eight games on the trot to produce the incredible comeback | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Europe
Elina Svitolina won eight games on the trot to produce the incredible comeback | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Europe

All the hard work to build the formidable 5-1 lead was in futile as Svitolina came back roaring into contention, before rattling off seven games on the trot and concluding the amazing comeback over a frustrated Tomljanovic, who would have rued her missed chances.

Tomljanovic puts up a tough fight but Svitolina proves to be too strong

Tomljanovic threatened to make an immediate breakthrough in the opening game of the second set but Svitolina stood firm, holding her nerves and saved multiple break points for the confidence-boosting hold. The Ukrainian was starting to be more aggressive and took the initiative throughout most of the rallies, with her reward being an eighth consecutive game for a 2-0 lead.

Elina Svitolina will now face the hard-hitting Kuzmova in the second round | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Europe
Elina Svitolina will now face the hard-hitting Kuzmova in the second round | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Europe

Many expected Tomljanovic to fade away especially after the unfortunate collapse from 5-1 up, but she was out on the court to prove everyone wrong as her backhands started to fire on all cylinders, with the underdog sending in a backhand return winner to break straight back. A series of service holds followed as the returners failed to find a loophole to exploit on.

Serving at 3-4 down, it was a poor service game played by Tomljanovic as she allowed Svitolina to play her top game, and the world number four dutifully took her chances and fired a return winner for a commanding 5-3 lead, alongside the golden opportunity to serve out the match. Yet another comfortable hold sealed the nervy opening win for Svitolina after an hour and 29-minutes of play, booking a spot in the second round.  

Both players meet at the net for a handshake after the match | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Europe
Both players meet at the net for a handshake after the match | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Europe