One of the pre-tournament favourites and recent Italian Open champion Elina Svitolina will look to take another step towards Grand Slam glory when she takes on Mihaela Buzarnescu in the third round in Paris. Svitolina, who has never gone beyond the quarterfinals at a Slam, may well feel that this is her year to make a real impact. But Buzarnescu is a player of real quality and she will have no intention of merely making up the numbers in this clash. Who will come out on top?
Somewhat surprisingly Svitolina and Buzarnescu have never encountered each other competitively on Tour. But whilst Svitolina, despite her relative youth, has plenty of experience of competing on the biggest stage, Buzarnescu had previously struggled to breakthrough at Slam-level. The 30-year-old only competed in her first Slam main draw at last season’s US Open, and her victory in the first round in Paris was her first at this level.
Path to the third round
Svitolina began her French Open campaign against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, the world #69. It was Tomljanovic who made the better start, racing to a 5-1 lead and serving for the set up 5-2. But errors began to creep into her game as the pressure mounted, and Svitolina won five games on the bounce to take the first set. From there the writing was on the wall and she won 7-5 6-3. The Ukrainian then delivered a professional performance to defeat the in-form Viktoria Kuzmova 6-3 6-4.
Buzarnescu, seeded at a Slam for the first time, began her Roland Garros campaign with an impressive 6-3 6-3 victory against the United States’ Vania King who plays the majority of her tennis in doubles and was outmatched against Buzarnescu. The Romanian backed that victory with a dominant defeat of Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson, who recently won an ITF tournament in Cagnes-Sur-Mer but picked up just three games against Buzarnescu in a 1-6 2-6 defeat.
How do they match up?
Svitolina is an excellent baseliner, and the Ukrainian will surely look to dominate proceedings with her powerful groundstrokes. Her inside-out forehand is one of the best on Tour, and Svitolina also possesses a versatile and dangerous backhand. She is also a fine mover, well-capable of turning defence into attack, even when pushed into the corners. However, she does not look hugely comfortable finishing off points at the net.
Buzarnescu, though not one of the most powerful players on the WTA Tour, generally deploys an aggressive, fast-playing style. The Romanian often tries to gain the forward momentum in the point, regularly moving forward into the forecourt to force the issue in a point. However, she will have to be wary of Svitolina’s ability to hit passing shots, something that another member of the top ten, Caroline Wozniacki, burned her with earlier in the season in Melbourne
It’s been a hugely impressive few months for Buzarnescu who has gone from making her Grand Slam debut in New York to numbering amongst the seeds in Paris. But as well as she has played to do so, she has yet to show the sort of quality that would suggest she can upset Svitolina, who though perhaps not playing her very best tennis, has looked generally solid so far this week. Expect the Ukrainian to reach the fourth round in straight sets.