Fourth seed Elina Svitolina continued her march towards her first Grand Slam title with a convincing 6-2, 6-2 win over Marta Kostyuk in just 59 minutes. Svitolina will face 130th-ranked qualifier Denisa Allertova for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Kostyuk's fairytale run comes to an end over a week after it began, when she won three three-setters in qualifying to reach the main draw before upsetting 25th seed Shuai Peng and Olivia Rogowska in the first two rounds.
Svitolina claims first set after hot start by Kostyuk
Playing with nothing to lose, Kostyuk came out firing and she was rewarded with her early barrage of winners by claiming an immediate break. Showing how easy the pendulum can swing in such tense circumstances, Svitolina broke back on a flurry of errors from the 15-year old.
After each player held, the defining game of the match occurred. Trailing 3-2, but on serve, Kostyuk fended off two break points, but sprayed a backhand wide on the third, handing Svitolina the initiative at 4-2. The tournament favorite would run through the remainder of the set, claiming it in just 31 minutes.
Fourth seed blazes through second set to advance
Both players started the second set well, holding with relative ease. The key moment came with Svitolina ahead 2-1 and looking to pounce on a 15-40 advantage. Kostyuk's attempted drop shot from the baseline falling short and giving Svitolina an unassailable lead.
The rest of the set saw the server dominate and at 5-2, Svitolina held match points on Kostyuk's serve at 15-40. The 15-year old sadly double-faulted to end what was a magical ride in Melbourne, the two sharing a warm embrace at the net following the encounter.
No matter what happens the rest of the tournament, Kostyuk will forever be remembered as the story of the event. Needing a wild card just to get into qualifying and progressing as far as she did is a testament to her incredible talent. She'll move up to around #275 in the rankings when the proceedings in Melbourne are completed and it will be a privilege for all of us to see her grow into what undoubtedly will be a Slam champion in the coming years.
Svitolina did what she had to do without much of a problem. While her draw seems easy so far, she has the added pressure of being the tournament favorite and handled the awkwardness of facing Kostyuk in the circumstances flawlessly. Allertova will present a different challenge in that she hits hard and flat and is playing well with six wins already (three in qualifying, three in the main draw), so Svitolina will face yet another challenge as she seeks her first major championship.