BRISBANE, Australia - World No.6 Elina Svitolina became the first champion of the 2018 season on Saturday evening, defeating qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich to win the Brisbane International, 6-2, 6-1.
The Ukrainian No.3 seed claimed the first Premier-level title of her career, after winning three Premier 5 titles in 2017 - the first player to ever do so in a single season.
"It was a tough, tough offseason," Svitolina said, on court after the match. "To start with a trophy is always very, very special."
Svitolina smothered Sasnovich from all parts of the court over the course of 61 minutes. She sparkled on serve for the entire encounter, never facing a break poont and dropping just four points behind her first serve in eight games.
Two of Svitolina's 10 aces, along with a service winner, came in the final game of the match as she wrapped up her 10th career title in 66 mintes.
"There is not only on serve that I'm working on. There's lots of things," Svitolina assessed after the match. "To be a good, consistent player you have to work on everything and to be really confident with all the parts of your game. Of course, the serve is one of them because you can get free points off that.
"It was very important to use what I was working on during the offseason, and it was working. One match at a time, I was improving in some parts. I was playing better and better and, you know, serve worked really good during this week."
Sasnovich, looking to become the first qualifier to win the title in Brisbane, ran out of gas in her eighth match of the week in just her third career match against a Top 10 player.
Though the Belarusian came from a set down in four of her matches, including three in the main draw, she was unable to capture the same magic in the championship in her first-ever match against the Ukrainian.
She was able to save the bagel in the second set, hitting her first ace of the contest down match point, but Svitolina wrapped up the victory in the next game.
"Sorry for my play today," Sasnovich told the Brisbane crowd, who had come to adopt her giant-killing run as a favorite over the course of the week. "It was an incredible week for Elina - she was better than me and deserved to win. It was a good week for me."
"I tried not to think about [fatigue] too much, you know. I just tried to relax a little. Of course, everyone understand that it's a lot of matches. I understand it's a lot of matches. The body is tired, but I tried not to think about it."
Striking the ball with increased accuracy and power as the match wore on, Svitolina tallied a total of 23 winners to just 15 unforced errors in the match.
Sasnovich tried to hang with the World No.6 from the baseline as best she could, as both she and Svitolina struck eight winners in the opening set, but her unforced error total in the opening set (15 to 9) and the match (25) proved costly.
After a banner year in 2017, a season-opening title in Queensland asserts Svitolina as one of the in-form players headed into the year's first Grand Slam in Melbourne next week.
"I didn't have any expectations for this week and I was just trying to take one match at a time," the Ukrainian said. "The first match was already quite tough against [Carla] Suárez Navarro. She's a tough opponent to play, and I had a very tough draw.
"I just try to take this as one step that's forward. If I'm there with my game, I have a good chance to play well [at the Australian Open]. I don't have any pressure that I have to play well there. I am on the right path and we can see that the things we've been working on are the right things...and we will continue on that."