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Svitolina powers past Shvedova

By Alex Sharp   on   Tuesday 30 May 2017
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Elina Svitolina, a quarter-finalist in 2015, began her latest Roland-Garros campaign with victory over the dangerous Yaroslava Shvedova, another former quarter-finalist in Paris.

Elina Svitolina ignited her title challenge in Paris by passing the stern test provided by world No.45 Yaroslava Shvedova.

The fifth seed, champion in Rome earlier this month, leads the WTA with the most match wins in 2017 (32-6) following a 6-4, 6-3 triumph on Suzanne-Lenglen Court.

The 22-year-old now feels accustomed to entering tournaments as one of the contenders for the trophy. ”On one hand I have a lot of confidence, more than probably anyone else, because I won so many matches, and on the other hand, there is a pressure, there are expectations from me,” Svitolina said.

“I try to not have anything on my mind. Just go out there and do what I do the best, play my game, be really focused and keep it simple.”

It was a tricky opener for Svitolina; both players have previously graced the Roland-Garros quarter-finals, and it was the Kazakh who found her range first. A blistering inside-out backhand return winner enabled Shvedova to take the first break for 2-1. However, Svitolina restored parity, eager to take the early strike, and teased the errors from her opponent with some punchy forehands.

At 5-4, some remarkable retrieving, including a lob high up on the stretch against the back fence, was complimented by a clattering backhand return onto the baseline, and suddenly Svitolina had two set points. Another drop shot was chased down and the Ukrainian’s forehand passing shot did the damage.

“For me the most important thing is to play my game, and then it doesn't really matter who is on the other side.”

A series of routine forehand one-two combinations helped Svitolina breeze through early service holds in set two, but Shvedova was proving difficult to break down and made several successful forays to the net.

At 3-3, Shvedova, who won their only previous encounter at Wimbledon 2016, carved out a break opportunity, but let Svitolina off the hook with consecutive ground-strokes that missed the mark.

A backhand pass was the catalyst for Svitolina, the 2010 Roland-Garros girls’ singles champion, to snatch a 5-3 lead. Despite facing two break points, the world No.6 clinched her place in the second round with an ace to bring up match point followed by a trademark serve-forehand one-two combo.

Svitolina was relieved to progress in straight sets, considering the calibre of her opponent. “I think it was quite a tough match for the first round to have Yaroslava, I was a bit nervous. I lost to her in Wimbledon last year, but I knew I'm playing much better, physically I'm much better, stronger. That's why I had a little bit more confidence than the last time,” Svitolina said.

“She always has good hands, because she’s an amazing doubles player. So I was expecting her to go to the net a lot, to hit the dropshots, so I was pretty calm. I think in the important moments I won all the points where I was under pressure when she was at the net.”

Svitolina will next, for the first time, take on Tsvetana Pironkova, who swept aside Mona Barthel 6-0, 6-4.

And the Ukrainian had a warning for the rest of the field. “It's going to be tough match. I think she can bring very good tennis, but I think I'm more confident, won more matches, so I think I will just do my thing on court, and then see how it goes,” she said.

“For me the most important thing is to play my game, and then it doesn't really matter who is on the other side.”

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