MELBOURNE, Australia - In a battle of the current and the future of Ukrainian tennis in Melbourne on Friday, No.4 seed Elina Svitolina ended the prodigious run for 15-year-old compatriot Marta Kostyuk in the third round of the Australian Open, 6-2, 6-2.
For the second time in the Open Era, three players representing Ukraine - Svitolina, Kostyuk and Kateryna Bondarenko have advanced to the third round of a Grand Slam, after Svitolina, Bondarenko and Lesia Tsurenko did so at the 2016 US Open.
With Svitolina and Kostyuk facing off on Rod Laver Arena, Ukraine was assured representation in the second week in Melbourne for the first time since Alona Bondarenko in 2010.
After exactly 59 minutes, it was the World No.4 who clinched her first fourth round berth at the event.
"'It's very special for me to be in the fourth round for the first time," Svitolina said on-court after the victory. "I love the Australian Open but I've never been further than the third round."
"She did an amazing job here. Going through the qualifying, winning one match in qualifying is already good. Winning two matches is, like, awesome. Three matches, passing qualifying, is something unbelievable, and then beating two girls playing a good level. I think it's very special, a moment for both of us."
Though Kostyuk started the stronger of the two players, winning the first six points of the match as she smacked a pair of winners to break Svitolina at love in the opening game, her 23-year-old compatriot quickly stamped her authority on the third round encounter.
The elder of the two Ukrainians broke back in the second game, ran off the last four games of the opening set and eventually secured 10 of the last 12 games of the match to move safely through to the second week.
Said Svitolina of her young compatriot, with whom she shared a hug at the net after the match: "She is a great fighter and she has a bright future. I am sure we are going to hear about her again in the future."
Despite her bright start, Kostyuk was undone by unforced errors and struggles on serve, as she littered the statsheet with 17 unforced errors and six double faults in the opener.
For the match, Kostyuk served at 39% - and though she was very successful when her first serve landed in (75% of points won), she won just nine of the 34 points where she was forced to hit a second serve.
The teenager also ended the contest with nine double faults - with the final one coming on match point. After the match, Kostyuk was candid about how the emotions of playing the top-ranked player from her country affected her.
"I had the chances, but because I thought, like, she is incredible, like, she's a god, I cannot do anything against her, that's the problem that I didn't use much," she said. "How much you have to pay Svitolina to have one-hour lesson - I got it for free. I know that I could play much better.
"When I'm playing against, like, big players for the first time, I cannot believe that I can beat them. It was for the first time I was playing against top five player in the world."
Conversely, Svitolina soared on serve after the opening blip and dropped just six points behind her delivery after the first game. The No.4 seed served five aces and served at a 71% clip, winning 77% of her points on the first serve and 63% behind her second.
Svitolina will look to continue her career-best Australian Open against surprise package Denisa Allertova, as the qualifier ranked World No.130 has won three main draw matches.
"I played against her I think once. I know her game. She plays quite flat, so I know what to expect from her. I'm going to prepare and, yeah, for me it's important for me to be ready and be 100% with my game and give myself a chance to play well," Svitolina said. "I had an amazing run in Brisbane. It was good tennis for me. I was very happy I could start the year with the win.
"I'm just enjoying myself on court. Every match is a big challenge for everyone in a Grand Slam, and I'm just gonna go out there and do my best and be ready for my next match."