French Open: Elina
Svitolina denies Renata Zarazua birthday win in second round
Elina Svitolina, quarterfinalist in 2015 and 2017, is through to the third round of the French Open after securing a three-set win in the second round. Photo: Tim Clayton

The historic appearance of Mexico’s top-ranked star Renata Zarazua at this year’s French Open, where she became the first Mexican woman to feature in a Grand Slam main draw in over 20 years, started off with win a win over French wildcard Elsa Jacquemot.

This earned the qualifier a spot in the second round where she took on two-time quarterfinalist here, world’s fifth-ranked Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine, who is seeded third at this year’s tournament, on her what turned out to be her 23rd birthday.  

The Mexican impressed, scoring a second-set bagel over the two-time Grand Slam semifinalist, but the Ukrainian proved too good in the end, as she brought qualifier's stellar run in Paris to an end.

Svitolina snatches opening set

Svitolina began the match on a roll, the world number five reeling in the first four games in succession dominantly in 10 minutes, converting two out of four break point chances in the process. Zarazua looked to finally settled in the match in the next game as she would hold serve to 15. The Mexican woman then raced off to recording her first break of serve next as she produced a winner to convert her first break point opportunity to narrow the gap, Svitolina now leading 4-2.

Zarazua looked set for a love service hold next, but took the scenic route to a hold of serve in the end, the game being stretched to three deuces which even saw Svitolina have a break point on an occasion. Thenceforth, it was all about the two-time quarterfinalist Svitolina as the Ukrainian claimed eight of the next nine points, breaking her opponent in the process, to seal the opening set, after 35 minutes of play.

Birthday girl Zarazua lost, she did managed to win the second set of the match, a bagel, in 29 minutes. Photo: Tim Clayton
Although the birthday girl Zarazua lost, she did manage to win the second set of the match, a bagel, in 29 minutes. Photo: Tim Clayton

Zarazua dishes a bagel in second set

The second set began with the exact same storyline as the first, this time with Zarazua going on a game-winning streak of her own, the Mexican taking the first four games in over 10 minutes. She had three break points in the first game, on Svitolina’s serve, but failed to convert any of them. After hitting a winner to set up the fourth one, she was successful this time courtesy of an unforced error from the Ukrainian’s racket. The Mexican then recorded her first love service hold, before breaking her older opponent’s serve once more, this time to love.

After holding serve for a 4-0 lead, Zarazua looked set once more to break the Svitolina serve but was made to work for it, seeing her first four break chances go, the first three with errors of her own. The 23-year-old’s fifth one proved decisive, and she would go on to consolidate the break, hitting a winner to take the second set 6-0.

Svitolina regroups to make third round

The third seed kicked off the deciding set with an ace but very soon found herself facing two break points after a couple of unforced errors. She would deny her Mexican opponent the break of serve, coming up with two winners en route to a service hold. The next game went in favour of the Ukrainian as well, breaking Zarazua to love. Up 2-0, Svitolina looked set for another comfortable hold after going up 30-0 but would lose the next four points to hand the Mexican the break back.

The next game saw Zarazua holding serve for the final time this match, to level the set at two games all, and it would also be the final game she wins. Svitolina, like how she started the match, stormed through the final four games, dropping only one point each, and converting championships point successfully after forcing an error from Zarazua with a deep backhand return to take the win 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 in 95 minutes.

Both players recorded a similar percentage of first deliveries, 66. Svitolina also managed a clean ace statistic as she produced two of them to zero double faults. Zarazua, on the other hand, while having four double faults of her own, did not manage a single ace at all.

Although the Mexican faired excellently at the net, scoring nine out of 10 such points, she was not able to do so well on break points, converting 36% of a total 14, while Svitolina’s was six out of nine, the Ukrainian doing better in those key moments. The pair also had 16 winners spread out equally between them, but it was Svitolina who kept the unforced error count lower, 31 to Zarazua’s 33.

Both players tap rackets after the end of their clash. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat
Both players tap rackets after the end of their clash. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat

Up next

Through to the third round here for the sixth year in a row, Svitolina will next face 27th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, the Russian having defeated lucky loser Astra Sharma of Australia in straight sets in the second round.

In what will be their first career meeting, Svitolina will be eyeing a place in her first Grand Slam second week of the year, while Alexandrova will be looking to break through to make that stage for the first time in her career.