BUDAPEST, Hungary - Qualifier Iga Swiatek took the spoils in a fascinating first-round clash between rising teenagers at the Hungarian Ladies Open, defeating Olga Danilovic 6-3, 6-0 in one hour and three minutes.
"I'm really surprised by the scoreline!" exclaimed a delighted Swiatek afterwards. "I guess I was just more focused and more relaxed."
The pair of 2001-born prodigies have been competing against each other since their earliest junior days. In 2015, each took one U14 victory apiece, with Danilovic winning their Les Petits As semifinal 6-4, 6-0 and Swiatek gaining revenge 6-4, 1-6, 6-0 en route to the European Junior Championships title in Pilsen. A year later, Danilovic would claim the U16 European Junior Championships title with a 6-3, 6-1 defeat of Swiatek in the final in Moscow - but a month after that, they would meet in another final, in the Grade 1 junior event in Repentigny, with Swiatek claiming the trophy after the Serb retired leading 6-3, 0-2.
— WTA (@WTA) February 19, 2019
It was three years until the two would meet again - and their first senior meeting, in the first round of qualifying at this year's Australian Open, was a barn-burner as Swiatek made a superb comeback to win 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 - going on to make her WTA-level debut in the main draw, where she won a round over Ana Bogdan.
Today would be rather less dramatic. Swiatek had once again navigated through qualifying, and swiftly laid down a statement of intent with a pair of aces in her opening game. Danilovic staved off an immediate break with an ace of her own and a huge forehand winner, and two games later powered to two break points herself.
It was at this point, though, that the Wimbledon junior champion's greater versatility and solidity began to show. Swiatek escaped thanks to a brilliant lob and a spectacular redirection of Danilovic's pace for a forehand winner, and would not face another break point - indeed, the 17-year-old would only drop 11 points in total behind her delivery.
— WTA (@WTA) February 19, 2019
Danilovic, meanwhile, was demonstrating inarguable power - but less control of it. Outweighing the Moscow River Cup champion's four aces today were nine double faults, including three in the sixth game to fall behind a break.
Swiatek, though, showed off ability on both offence and defence: serving out the set, she won the point of the match after captivating hustling ended with a forehand pass, and ended by clattering an off forehand emphatically past Danilovic.
In the second set, Swiatek went from strength to strength, conjuring up an exquisite dropshot to break up a full-pelt rally and clubbing her backhand to break Danilovic three more times. By contrast, the World No.114 - who had snapped a seven-match losing streak two weeks ago in Fed Cup Group I zonal play - continued to be plagued by double faults at inopportune times, and was unable to make any impact on the Swiatek serve.
Conceding just eight points in the second set, the World No.140 sealed her second WTA-level victory in resounding fashion with a smash to finish off a love hold, and will now face either No.1 seed Alison Van Uytvanck or former World No.2 Vera Zvonareva in the second round.
"I don't have any goals for this week," admitted Swiatek, who only made her debut in WTA qualifying in Auckland in January. "My expectation is just to gain experience - but right now, I would love to be in the quarterfinals or even further!"
Elsewhere, the tournament lost two seeded players. No.2 seed Kirsten Flipkens was struck down by a viral illness and forced to withdraw; her slated opponent, Evgeniya Rodina, instead defeated Bulgarian lucky loser Viktoriya Tomova 6-0, 4-6, 6-2. Meanwhile, 2018 Taipei City runner-up Kateryna Kozlova is again thriving on indoor hard courts; the unseeded World No.126 shocked No.7 seed Johanna Larsson 6-1, 6-1 in just 51 minutes to set up a second-round clash against either Madison Brengle or wildcard Fanny Stollar.