MELBOURNE, Australia -- No.5 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine booked safe passage into the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday, as she slipped past Great Britain’s Katie Boulter, 6-4, 7-5.
In the first meeting between the two players, two-time Australian Open quarterfinalist Svitolina broke the Brit four times off of six chances to earn the 81-minute victory.
Boulter, who is on the comeback trail after injury kept her out for half of last season, showed off her power game to great effect with 27 winners, outpacing Svitolina’s 17. But the World No.5 from Ukraine was stingier on serve, giving up only three break points, to eke out both hard-fought sets.
Svitolina will now face Lauren Davis in the second round, after Davis defeated 17-year-old Canadian qualifier Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-2 in their opening-round encounter. Svitolina has triumphed over Davis in all four of their prior encounters.
A tight first set was presaged in the very first game, when Svitolina had to fend off a break point from the game Boulter before rebounding for the service hold. Boulter served her way out of a close game to stay level at 2-2, and the opening frame was closely contested from there.
At 4-4, Svitolina wrapped up another tense game by completing a lengthy rally with a forehand winner, putting the pressure on Boulter to keep the streak of service holds alive and stay in the match. The Ukrainian put the hammer down at this juncture, firing divine groundstrokes down each of the lines to collect her first break points of the clash and zoom to triple set point.
Svitolina only needed one opportunity to obtain the one-set advantage, as she charged into the forecourt to blast a forehand winner crosscourt and lead 6-4. The combatants had nine winners apiece in the opener, but Svitolina kept her sheet cleaner, with four fewer unforced errors than Boulter.
Boulter started the second set with a bang as she earned her first break of the match in the opening game, then consolidated to reach 2-0. However, Svitolina steadied herself and swiftly took advantage of poorly timed errors from the Brit to reel off five straight games and jump to 5-2.
The No.5 seed had a golden opportunity to serve out the match at 5-3, but Boulter shone in that game. Boulter, playing the event on a protected injury ranking, fired well-struck shots to zip to triple break point, then crafted a deft lob winner on the first chance to pull back on serve at 5-4. After an ace won her the next game, Boulter was dead even with her seeded foe in the set.
Svitolina, though, held on for 6-5 to quickly put the pressure back on Boulter. The Brit started that game with a double fault, and eventually netted a forehand to give Svitolina two match points. Boulter saved the first with an error-forcing forehand, but on the second, Svitolina unloaded a super forehand pass down the line for a clean winner, ending the tilt.
More to follow.....