(Photo credit: Christian Messiano)
Fifth seeded Elina Svitolina has had a good year to date, winning three events already, including the Italian Open, and will be hoping that she can better her 2017 fourth round appearance at the All England Club. But she opens her campaign with a tricky match up against Germany’s world #57 Tatjana Maria, an experienced player and certainly no pushover. Will Svitolina advance or will Maria find a way to get the win?
Svitolina and Maria have met four times in their careers in a head-to-head tied at 2-2. Their first meeting was in Tessenderlo in Belgium in 2011, on clay, and Svitolina won easily. They met at the same tournament the following year, but it was then Maria who won a tightly fought three set match. Maria won the third match between the two as well, contested later that year in the Bronx where she won 6-4 6-2. But in their most recent match up, in Beijing in 2016, Svitolina won in straight sets.
Last time out
Svitolina was the favourite for many going into Roland Garros, but crashed out in the third round at the hands of Mihaela Buzarnescu. She then played in Birmingham on the grass, where she won through to the quarterfinals against some decent opposition. She started off with a three set victory over world #55 Donna Vekic, before beating world #41 Alize Cornet in straight sets. In the quarterfinals she again faced Buzarnescu, and was again beaten in straight sets, losing 3-6 2-6.
Maria’s May and June were largely frustrating as she was bundled out in the first round of three successive tournaments, including the French Open and the Rosmalen Grass Court championships. But she responded in impressive fashion in Mallorca, knocking out three higher ranked players en route to lifting the title. That run included beating Latvian Anastasija Sevastova, the world #20, in straight sets in the final.
How do they match up?
Svitolina has become one of the world’s best due to her unquestionable quality from the back of the court. She is powerful and consistent on both wings, though her backhand is the stronger of the two sides. She also moves well, and is able to turn defence into offence with precision hitting on the run. However, she is still yet to advance beyond the quarterfinals at a Major, and thus questions remain about her ability to perform on the biggest stage.
Maria will be able to remain in baseline rallies on the back of her fleet-footedness and defensive ability. She also possesses a strong one-handed backhand, her major weapon, and also has a very useful slice, which should serve her well in this match. Her forehand is less dangerous as an offensive weapon, but when the German is playing well, as she will need to in order to defeat Svitolina, she spreads the court well from both wings.
This could be a tight one. Svitolina is undoubtedly the better player, but Maria is a wily veteran and will be full of confidence coming off her victory in Spain. Indeed, Maria’s good form and her own problems in that department make this a real test early on for the world #3, but ultimately the Ukrainian will be too strong. Expect Svitolina to make her way through to the second round with a three set victory.