Recent Italian Open champion, Elina Svitolina continues her bid for French Open glory against Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia. The Ukrainian has never been beyond the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, but has continued to deliver hugely impressive results away from the Slams, particularly at Premier-level. Many feel it is only a matter of time before she makes her breakthrough at a Major. But Kuzmova will be determined to extend Svitolina’s wait. Who will come out on top?
Svitolina and Kuzmova have never played before, with the Slovakian still very early on in her career. She is yet to win her first WTA title, but she does have an impressive record of 201 career victories against just 70 defeats, though few of those wins have come at the highest level. Svitolina has already claimed 12 titles in singles, and 311 wins. And whilst Svitolina is competing in a Slam for the 23rd time, this is just the third time that Kuzmova has reached the main draw of a Slam.
Path to the second round
Svitolina began her Roland Garros campaign with a difficult opening assignment against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, who made an excellent start in the match, playing tennis that belied her ranking of world #68. She quickly took a 5-1 lead and served for the opening set up 5-2. But the pressure seemed to hit Tomljanovic quickly, perhaps as she realised she had a real opportunity to score a huge win. As her confidence and focus evaporated, so did her chances and Svitolina turned the match around to win 7-5 6-3.
Kuzmova came into the French Open after winning the biggest title of her career in her native Slovakia, defeating Cepede Royg, who pushed Kvitova hard in the first round in Paris in the final. Kuzmova’s first match in the French capital pitted her against former French Open champion, Italy’s Francesca Schiavone. Schiavone, now 37, is not the force she once was, and though she put up commendable resistance, in the crucial moments Kuzmova was able to play the better tennis, winning her first ever Grand Slam match 7-6 7-6.
How do they match up?
Svitolina is a formidably impressive all-court player, blessed with powerful groundstrokes. Her backhand is marginally the better of the two wings, but both are useful weapons and the Ukrainian deployed her inside-out forehand to great effect against Halep in Rome. Though not a particularly comfortable volleyer, Svitolina possesses a fine serve and is an excellent mover, although perhaps not amongst the very best defenders in the game.
Kuzmova possesses an accurate, if not particularly powerful serve. Her forehand is her best shot with the 20-year-old able to maintain impressive control of the ball from that wing even at the very end of her range. Her backhand is not so reliable a shot for Kuzmova, but it has continued to improve over the course of her career. Her weakness, however, is her movement, and it is one that may well be exposed by an opponent of Svitolina’s unquestionable quality.
Svitolina did well to escape Ajla Tomljanovic in straight sets, and that match may well have been something of a wake up call for the Ukrainian. She should have more than enough to overcome Kuzmova, provided she remains focused throughout. The Slovakian hasn’t shown yet that she has the quality to go toe-to-toe with the game’s best and although her confidence will be high after six straight victories, that won’t be enough to undo Svitolina. The Ukrainian to win in straight sets.