Elina Svitolina returned to WTA 1000 action for the first time since her maternity leave, but came up just short against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
The World No.47 Sasnovich won 6-4, 7-5 in the opening round of the Mutua Madrid Open, a match that lasted 1 hour and 39 minutes on Manolo Santana Stadium. Sasnovich will next face No.29 seed Marie Bouzkova.
Svitolina’s comeback continues: Before this week, the former World No.3 Svitolina’s most recent WTA 1000 event was the Miami Open in March of 2022. Two months later, she announced her pregnancy. Svitolina gave birth to her daughter Skaï in October of 2022.
After her yearlong maternity leave, Svitolina returned to tennis in Charleston at the start of this month, where she lost a close three-setter to Yulia Putintseva in the first round.
Svitolina then went 1-2 at ITF Challenger events between Charleston and Madrid, with the first match-win of her comeback coming against Elena-Gabriela Ruse in Chiasso, Switzerland.
Sasnovich leads head-to-head: Svitolina had defeated Sasnovich in their first meeting in the 2018 Brisbane final, but Sasnovich ended Svitolina’s title defense by winning the rematch in the Brisbane Round of 16 the next year.
In their first matchup off of the Brisbane hard courts, it was Sasnovich who took the 2-1 lead in their head-to-head and claimed her first clay-court win of 2023.
Svitolina, a two-time champion on the clay courts of Rome, has been less successful in Madrid. Svitolina has played the Mutua Madrid Open eight times but has yet to advance past the second round.
Match moments: Sasnovich raced to an early 3-0, double-break lead on Wednesday. Svitolina grabbed one break back for 3-1, but Sasnovich retained her advantage the rest of the way, slamming a putaway at net to close out the one-set lead.
In the second set, Svitolina went up a break at 3-1, but Sasnovich immediately broke back to get on serve again. Sasnovich took more opportunities in rallies as the set wore on, and she garnered the critical break for 6-5 before serving out the closely contested 63-minute set.
Sasnovich had 19 winners to Svitolina's 14, and Sasnovich converted half of her eight break points to take the victory.