Defending champion and No.3 seed Elena Rybakina faced a tough test on paper in the second round at Wimbledon, but passed it with flying colors Thursday in a 6-2, 7-6(2) win over France's Alize Cornet on Centre Court.
After dropping the first set of her first-round win over American Shelby Rogers, also on the All England Club's main stage, Rybakina was much more convincing for the majority of her Round 2 performance against perennial upset-artist Cornet.
But in a hard-fought second set, the turning point came at 5-5, with Rybakina serving in what became a 12-deuce game: Cornet took a spill at the back of the court, and though she continued on after taking a medical timeout, Rybakina ultimately sealed victory in 1 hour and 48 minutes.
"I started really well. Happy that in the end [I] managed to win in two sets because the second one was quite tricky," Rybakina said afterwards.
And what of the nerves she admitted to feeling before she settled into her first-round win?
"Today was much better coming out," she said. "I think that now, after the first one, it just got better."
Read on for the top takeaways from Rybakina's Round 2 win.
On form from first ball: Rybakina was broken in the first game of the match against Rogers en route to losing the first set. But against Cornet, she lost just one point behind her serve in the opening set, and never looked back after opening up a 3-0 lead.
Groundstrokes in the groove: While 12 of Rybakina's 31 winners in her first-round win were aces, she only struck four against Cornet. However, she more than made up for it with potent groundstrokes: She hit 36 winners to Cornet's seven, and also won 19 of 28 points when she came to net.
"She's an amazing player on grass, on every surface, obviously. But in the first set I was very surprised of the rhythm of her shots," Cornet said afterwards. "The way she was serving was also really hard to return for me, but in the second set I got used to it. I tried to find solution.
"The second set was much better till the drama happened. But overall, I'm pretty well happy about the second set. It's just a shame that I started my match a bit slowly."
Up next: Centre Court again? Rybakina will next face British No.1 Katie Boulter in the third round -- a match that likely will also be ticketed for Wimbledon's most hallowed court. Should that scheduling decision indeed come to pass, it would be Rybakina's fifth straight trip to Centre Court over the last two years.
Nottingham champion Boulter made the third round of her home major for the second straight year with a 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 win over Bulgaria's Viktoriya Tomova on Court 12.
“I think it’s a super great opportunity for me,” Boulter told reporters afterwards. “I’ve got nothing to lose. She’s clearly the defending champion for a reason. I’m going to have a swing and go for it. I’ve got a lot of tennis behind me. It’s time for me to test my skills against an incredible champion.”