(Photo credit: Christian Messiano)
Elina Svitolina has made a habit of losing in the middle stages of Grand Slam tournaments, but with some good form heading into the 2018 US Open, the world #7 will have confidence that she can put together a good run in New York. Standing in her way in the second round is the experienced world #70 Tatjana Maria of Germany, who has reached the second round at the US Open three-times but never advanced further. Who will come out on top?
Svitolina and Maria have met twice in a head-to-head that is tied at one win apiece. The most recent came in the first round at Wimbledon last month. Maria stunned Svitolina by winning in three, running away with the decider to oust the Ukrainian 7-6 4-6 6-1. Prior to that, their only other encounter had come in Beijing back in 2016. In that match, played on a hard court, Svitolina got the job done easily, winning 6-2 6-2.
Path to the second round
Svitolina faced the difficult first-round draw of world #79 Sachia Vickery, a rising star in the United States who received the partisan backing of the New York crowd. Vickery did her best to feed off their energy and gave a good account of herself, particularly in the second set. Ultimately, however, Svitolina had too much, winning 6-3 1-6 6-1 in a little over an hour and a half to take her place in the second round for the fourth consecutive year.
Maria had a seemingly tough first round match up, coming up against former world #2 and Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska. Radwanska, now ranked 39th in the world, is still a dangerous prospect on her day, but those days are becoming increasingly rare for the Pole. Maria delivered an impressive performance to dispose of her without too many problems, winning 6-3 6-3 in an hour and 26 minutes.
How do they match up?
Both of these women possess strong backhands - two-handed for Svitolina, one-handed for Maria - and rely on them to do a fair amount of damage to their opponents. Svitolina, however, is significantly stronger than her opponent in various other areas of the game. Her forehand is much superior to the German's and Svitolina will surely look to exploit that advantage. Svitolina has also been serving well over the past few seasons.
But Maria's unusually aggressive style, which relies on her rushing the net often and unsettling opponents with vicious slice, ensures she is always a difficult player to face. Svitolina came unstuck for precisely that reason at Wimbledon, where she never settled into the match. But, on the slower, higher bouncing courts in New York, Maria's tactics may prove less successful and she will need to ensure her depth of shot is almost perfect.
Maria showed at Wimbledon that she is more than capable of matching it with the better players in the world on her day, and she must be given some chance in this one. It is, however, difficult to go against Svitolina, who, despite the Wimbledon loss, is the superior player, particularly on a hard court, and heads into the tournament on the back of some decent results. Expect Svitolina to reach the third round a straight sets winner.