Recent Italian Open champion Elina Svitolina begins a French Open campaign that some think will end with lifting the trophy against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic. Svitolina has reached the French Open quarterfinals in two of the last three years, but has never yet been beyond the last eight of a Slam. Tomljanovic, meanwhile, reached the fourth round in Paris on her debut in 2014, but has won just one match at Roland Garros since. Who will come out on top in this one?
Svitolina and Tomljanovic have met just once previously over the course of their careers. That match came three years ago in Brisbane in the lead up to the Australian Open. Svitolina was the victor that day, defeating Tomljanovic comfortably in the second round 6-3 6-2. Svitolina has also generally had more success than the Australian so far in their careers, with twelve titles to Tomljanovic’s zero. Svitolina also has 310 match wins to Tomljanovic’s 251, including 37 at the Majors. Tomljanovic has just nine career victories in Grand Slam matches.
Last time out
Elina Svitolina completed the perfect preparation for the French Open by defending her title at the Italian Open. The Ukrainian played impressive tennis all week in Rome, bar a strange bagel set that she gave away to Daria Kasatkina in the third round. She saved her best performance for the final where she was clinical throughout a straight sets victory over world #1 Simona Halep. Indeed, in the first set, which she won to love, Svitolina was untouchable.
Tomljanovic also made the trip to the Italian capital, although she began her tournament in the qualifying. There she defeated two seeds, Magda Linette of Poland in a three-set battle 6-2 3-6 6-4 and Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas 7-6 6-3. However, in the first round of the main draw she found Indian Wells finalist Daria Kasatkina of Russia a challenge too far. The Australian exited the tournament after a 0-6 4-6 loss, and her draw in Paris is arguably even tougher.
How do they match up?
Svitolina is, in many ways, the complete all-court player. The Ukrainian can call upon significant power from both her forehand and backhand, and when she is striking the ball cleanly, as she did against Halep, she can be almost unplayable. Svitolina is also a fine returner, often able to pick the ball early and then deliver a telling blow. However, against the more aggressive returners, her own serve can be punished, and she will be looking to maintain a high first serve percentage throughout this contest.
Tomljanovic, like Svitolina, plays the majority of her tennis from the baseline, although she is a confident volleyer and is not entirely averse from moving into the forecourt. Though she lacks the easy power of many of her colleagues on the WTA Tour, Tomljanovic excels at spreading the court, and rarely commits cheap errors from either her backhand or forehand wing. That being said, she may feel the need to press harder off the ground against an opponent of Svitolina’s quality.
Whilst Svitolina may have failed to deliver so far in her career at the business end of Slams, she has shown impressive consistency early on in at tennis’ biggest events. She hasn’t lost in the first round of a Major since the US Open in 2014, and since then she has only failed to reach the third round three times. And after the performances she delivered in Rome, there is no reason to expect her not to be in the second round again this year. Svitolina to win in straight sets.