MELBOURNE, Australia - No.6 seed Elina Svitolina scored her first win of the season, 6-1, 6-2 over qualifier Viktorija Golubic, to move into the second round of the Australian Open in one hour and one minute.
The WTA Finals champion's preparations for Melbourne had received a setback two weeks ago when she had lost her Brisbane opener to the previous year's runner-up, Aliaksandra Sasnovich. However, Svitolina rebounded strongly today in the final match on the 1573 Arena, slamming nine aces and 25 winners.
Golubic had come through qualifying last week without dropping a set, making it the third consecutive year that the World No.103 had navigated the Australian Open's preliminary rounds successfully. But it would also be the third year in a row that Golubic's campaign would end in the first round of the main draw as she was unable to hit through the solidity of Svitolina.
The Swiss player's chances to make her mark on the match came primarily in its opening stages. Both players took some time to find their range; Svitolina opened two of her first three service games with a double fault, while Golubic was able to come up with some impressive dropshots and one-handed backhands.
But while that wing might have been the 2016 Gstaad champion's glory shot, it wasn't reliable enough on a sustained basis - she would leak 22 unforced errors to only 10 winners today - and it was Svitolina who emerged from a sequence of three consecutive breaks with a 3-1 lead.
From there, the three-time major quarterfinalist - including in Melbourne last year - went from strength to strength. Raising the levels of aggression in her game, Svitolina took control - in particular finding success at net, where she would win all five of her ventures in the first set and 10 out of 15 overall. Golubic would be execute less well: an errant volley, a smash over the baseline and a double fault put the former World No.51 down 1-5, and strong serving saw Svitolina seal the stanza on her first set point.
As in the first set, Golubic would garner few opportunities to gain a foothold in the second act, and they would come near its start. A succession of heavy forehands had netted Svitolina an immediate break, but Golubic would manage to carve out a break-back point in the second game. But the former World No.3 snuffed it out with another ace, and a mistaken challenge from Golubic put her back in control.
Playing with increasing confidence and versatility, Svitolina rode the break out for the win, expanding her repertoire as she extended her lead. A sequence of booming off forehands captured a bonus double break for 5-2, and the Dubai and Rome champion finished the match off efficiently to set up a second-round clash against either Auckland semifinalist Viktoria Kuzmova or 2018 Taipei City runner-up Kateryna Kozlova.