PARIS, France - No.5 seed Elina Svitolina struck 25 winners to begin her French Open on a high note on Tuesday, easing past Yaroslava Shvedova in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.
A match that might've not been out of place in the second week - Svitolina reached her lone Grand Slam quarterfinal to date in Paris in 2015, and Shvedova had twice appeared in the last eight in 2010 and 2012 - it was the Ukrainian who stepped up when it mattered most.
"I think it was quite tough match for the first round to have Yaroslava was quite tough draw," Svitolina said. "I lost to her in Wimbledon last year, but I knew I'm playing much better, physically I'm much better, stronger. That's why I had a little bit more confidence than the last time. I was a bit nervous, but in the same time calm and tried to play my tennis and bring my game today."
The No.5 seed broke serve in the final Shvedova service game of each set to secure the 76-minute victory, as she also rallied from an early break down in the first.
"I had a couple days off, and then I went back to train. Then again I took one day off, because probably I was too excited for this tournament, and I was a bit too emotional," Svitolina said about her preparation week after winning the title at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome. "So with my team I decided to take one more day off. I think it worked pretty good, because I played only on Tuesday; I had time to prepare. I played some points with girls. I also trained just with my hitting partner.
"I had time to prepare - I think I'm ready, and mentally, it's going well. I'm rested and ready to fight and, yeah, just for [the] next challenge."
Svitolina was perfect on her break point opportunities, taking all three she created, while Shvedova won just one of six chances in total.
Svitolina will face 2016 quarterfinalist Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round, after the Bulgarian flipped the script to oust an in-form Mona Barthel, 6-0, 6-4. Barthel came into the tournament with a 12-1 record on clay this season, and a 2-0 head-to-head advantage, while Pironkova hadn't won a set in three matches on clay this year. Having struggled with injury this season, the win for Pironkova also snapped a seven-match losing skid.
The Bulgarian was 0-3 down in the second set, and won her first main draw match since the Shenzhen Open - her first tournament of the year.
"I know she's back from injury, [and] she won a good match today. I didn't see, because I was playing, but Barthel is playing really good this year," Svitolina said. "It's gonna be tough match. I think she can bring very good tennis, but, yeah, I think I'm more confident, won more matches, so I think I will just do my thing on court, and then see how it goes. For me, the most important thing is to play my game, and then doesn't really matter who is in the other side."