BRISBANE, Australia - Ukrainian sensation Elina Svitolina kicked off her 2018 season on a high note, dispatching former WTA World No.6 Carla Suárez Navarro, 6-2, 6-4, to advance into the second round at the Brisbane International.
"Happy New Year!" Svitolina said during her on-court interview, saluting the crowd as she rang in 2018 with a victory.
"I went to bed at 10PM because I had to warm up at 8 this morning. I was disappointing, but I got to see the fireworks for kids. That was enough!"
Opening play on Pat Rafter Arena on Monday, the 23-year-old struck 11 aces and 36 winners (to just 22 unforced errors) to ultimately advance in an hour and 28 minutes.
"This match was a good example that I can play good level of tennis, high level of tennis," she explained during press. "So I will try to continue to work, to just be focused on these kind of things.
"That's what important for me, because the Grand Slam and No. 1 are all going to come if I have my game, if I'm healthy, if I'm playing my best. That's the focus for now."
Suárez Navarro was close to making her Top 5 debut two years ago before injuries stunted her 2017. Svitolina has since risen exponentially, capturing three Premier 5 titles and peaking at World No.3.
"I was expecting Carla to come back very strong in the second set. She's been on top for many years and knows how to handle the pressure and intensity. I was just trying to play my best and bring my own intensity, giving 100%."
Qualifying for her debut appearance at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global at the end of last year, Svitolina was one of seven women capable of ending the year as World No.1, and appears ready to contest for the game's biggest accolades in 2018 after tournament victories in Dubai, Rome, and Toronto.
"I know the challenge is there. It's going to be extremely tough because Serena, Maria, and Vika [Azarenka] are coming back, and so it's going to be tough for everyone. I'm ready for this challenge. I'll try to improve for each tournament and play my best."
A tough off-season was essential to putting her up to the task.
"There were some tough moments. I was struggling with a few injuries, but it was good. I learned a lot. I had a good team around me who took care of me.
"I think we're on the right path. Of course, there will be tough matches at the beginning and throughout the season, but this is tennis and this is the part of it. I was working and working a lot on my serve. Everything that I worked on was working more than not working. So this is big positive."
Up next for the Ukrainian is 20-year-old Croat Ana Konjuh, a former US Open quarterfinalist.
"We played a couple of times and practiced the first day I arrived here. I know what to expect from here, so we'll see how it goes."