Svitolina tested early, yet recovers

 - Alex Sharp

From 5-1 down in the opening set, the No.4 seed surges to victory in straight sets on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

Elina Svitolina Roland-Garros 2018© Julien Crosnier / FFT

Elina Svitolina is eager to develop the ultimate mindset to achieve Grand Slam glory, and was forced to demonstrate her mental fortitude to overhaul a double-break deficit against Ajla Tomljanovic to ignite her Roland-Garros campaign.

The No.4 seed had won both of their previous meetings, but was pinned behind the baseline by the world No.68 in the early exchanges on a scorching Court Suzanne-Lenglen, before winning 7-5 6-3.

Such is the drive and determination of Svitolina to succeed at the majors, the Ukrainian headed back out onto the practice courts straight after her press duties on Sunday afternoon.

“I know that I have to put lots of hours on court to get better and for me there is only way to get better is to practice, to improve my game each day, each match. Tennis is not only about one match,” declared the 23-year-old.

“Even if I finish the tournament early here it's not the end of the world. We're going to have the next tournament next week on grass and there are lots of tournaments.

“I have a big future. I don't only focus on that it's the last match of my life,” quipped Svitolina, who revealed plenty of mental preparation has been undertaken with her team for the French Open.

“That's definitely what we have been working on with my team and we have the same mentality. That's our work and that's how we are trying to get better.

“It's a buildup of matches, tournaments, confidence. We are trying to do all our best to be ready physically, mentally. To be ready for a Grand Slam is always the goal and I try to do everything that's in my power to play my best game at the Grand Slams. It's up and down, but in the end we are doing our best.”

Piercing returns from Tomljanovic broke the Rome champion to love for 2-1, before three blistering games made it 5-1 with just 21 minutes on the clock.

The Australian served for the set a game later, but a double-fault on set point opened the door for Svitolina.

“I found myself,” reflected the No.4 seed.

“I was fighting to get back into the match, and I think for me it was very important to play an extra ball over the net, and to fight until the end, until the last point of the first set, to find my game, and this was the key,” added Svitolina, who believes a combination of factors contributed to the start. “I think I did it pretty good, and then my level was getting better and better.”

The world No.4 began to dictate, mixing in delicate drop shots and disrupting Tomljanovic’s rhythm. Svitolina retrieved a smash with a deflected cross-court backhand passing shot, leaping into the air in celebration en route to levelling the set.

Eight successive games earned her a 7-5 2-0 advantage, with the fourth seed edging towards top gear.

Tomljanovic managed to halt the run to restore parity in set two, but two-time French Open quarter-finalist Svitolina gained the crucial breakthrough at 4-3 with assertive striking, and would soon surge to victory.

The Ukrainian will take on 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone or Viktoria Kuzmova in the second round.