DOHA, Qatar - In her first match since a quarterfinal defeat at the hands of Elise Mertens at the Australian Open, No.3 seed Elina Svitolina made a winning return to competition with a 6-2, 6-4 defeat of qualifier Marketa Vondrousova at the Qatar Total Open.
The Ukrainian last played a match nearly three weeks ago in a shock defeat at the hands of unseeded Elise Mertens in Melbourne, but she never trailed in Wednesday's second round match to post victory in 68 minutes.
"I was feeling fine. She's talented, and I didn't know much about her going into the match because she didn't play so many matches on the big tournaments," Svitolina said after the match.
"That's why it was a bit tricky, and she's a bit tricky player. The left hand is a bit uncomfortable, but I was really happy with the way I handled the situation. It was just a solid performance for the first round."
Breaking serve three times in the match, Svitolina set the tone early by breaking the Czech teenager in her first service game, and never faced a break point of her own en route to building a one-set lead.
In the second set, the World No.58 found her stride, as she forced Svitolina to save three break points in the third game of the set to keep her lead, and made a late push to get the set back on serve.
However, Svitolina kept the pressure on, and raised her level over the final two games of the match to secure victory and a third-round meeting with No.16 seed Petra Kvitova, who defeated Agnieszka Radwanska in a two-and-a-half hour marathon later in the day.
"I want to see what I improved from the years before because both of them I played quite a long time ago and now I'm a completely different player," Svitolina said following her victory.
"I play differently. I'm more confident with my game. It's very interesting for me to see both of them because I lost to both of them before, and it will be a good chance for me to really see...what I improved and see what I have to do more.
"I need to be 100 percent with my game because if I am not, it's tough against such players like that with experience they have behind their shoulders. It's going to be important to be really 100 percent physically and mentally fresh and ready."
Since her last appearance in Doha in 2016, when she was ranked World No.18, Svitolina has become a mainstay inside the Top 10, and has won more titles since the start of last year than any other player on tour.
In 2017, Svitolina became the first player to win three Premier 5 tournaments in one season (Dubai, Rome and Toronto) since the tournament level was introduced in 2009.
In Doha, she looks to join Simona Halep as the only players to win both Doha and Dubai while they hold Premier 5 status, as the two events now alternate the designation every year. In 2014, Halep won Doha and added a title in Dubai in 2015.
"The ranking is just a number that confirms that you are doing something well for the last year, for the last, I don't know, one-and-a-half years," she said. "It brings me confidence, first of all, because I had a great year 2017. I didn't finish where I wanted to finish, but I took so much good stuff from 2017, learned a lot.
"Hopefully this year is going to be even more. I have bigger goals, and I just try to work on everything for a little bit more, and move forward, just one step at a time."