PARIS, France - No.3 seed Elina Svitolina booked her place in the fourth round of the French Open for the fourth time in her career by virtue of a 6-4, 7-5 victory over No.27 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova on Friday.
Having lost in the third round in each of the past two years, the World No.5 edged the World No.31 in two competitive sets in the first match on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, breaking serve in the last game of each to move safely through in one hour and 40 minutes.
After losing serve 11 times in her first two matches, Svitolina was broken just once over the course of a first-ever encounter against the No.27 seed, while her counterpunching tennis stayed strong in the face of 25 winners from the Russian, nearly triple her own total.
"It was not an easy match. Going into the match, I knew that she would strike the ball really hard and flat, so I really had to adjust quickly with my feet," Svitolina said on-court after the match.
"It was very important to just stay focused for every single point, try to dig deep and run for every single ball."
After Svitolina saved a break point in the first game of the match, neither player faced another in the opener until the Ukrainian broke to love, courtesy of four errors from the Russian's racquet, to seal a one-set lead.
Conversely in the second set, the pair traded breaks across the first two games and saved six further break points combined from then on before Svitolina sealed the match just short of a tiebreak.
With the World No.5 serving first, Alexandrova did well to stay level in the face of pressure, erasing break points against her with big serves and booming forehands in pressure moments.
Saving break points against her to level at 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4, the Russian was nonetheless unable to convert on her own chances, as Svitolina saved a break point in the fifth game and more crucially, another at 5-5 which would've seen Alexandrova earn an opportunity to serve out the set if it was converted.
Ultimately, an erratic final game from Alexandrova, who finished the match with 49 unforced errors, helped get Svitolina over the line and put her into the second week of a Grand Slam for the 11th time in her career.
"Every match is as it is. It's tough, and you have to take one match at a time. I think it's not very good to look so far ahead, and I think it puts also lots of pressure on you," the Ukrainian added in her post-match press conference.
"I have been here for a few times now, and I think, for me, it's important just to look for my next match and to not go and run too much ahead."
For a spot in her third career quarterfinal at the French Open, Svitolina will next face either No.16 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, or home favorite Caroline Garcia.
Svitolina first reached the last eight in Paris as a 20-year-old in 2015, and also made it that far in 2017. Leading 6-3, 5-1 and holding a match point in the 2017 clash against Simona Halep, Svitolina eventually lost that year, 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-0.
"I lost in the [first] quarterfinal I think to [Ana] Ivanovic the first one and the second one to Simona Halep. So both matches have been really different, different experience for me," she said.
"My first quarterfinal... was really stressful experience, I would say. The second one against Simona, I had plenty of chances to close that match in two sets, and in the end, I lost the match. It really was tough for me mentally but really gave me this push... to overcome that and become even stronger.
"For me, it's important just to take one match at a time. I made two semifinals last year, so I try to really not focus about winning. For sure it's in the back of my mind, and everyone wants to win the title, but you have to work really hard for it, you have to look for your chances and work really hard. It's only hard work that can bring you there.
"I played against them a couple of times, and for me, they are both kind of striking the ball really good. So I have to adjust my game plan. I have to be really clear with my game style.
"It's gonna be another tough match. It's not easy one, I would say, and there is no easy matches already even in the first rounds. So I will try to prepare, be ready physically and go from there."