May 27, 2018 / 11:15 AM / 24 days ago

Tennis: Ukraine's Svitolina sweeps past Tomljanovic after shaky start

PARIS (Reuters) - Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina overcame a slow start to power past Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5 6-3 and become the first big name to reach the second round of the French Open on Sunday.

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - May 27, 2018 Ukraine's Elina Svitolina celebrates winning her first round match against Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Under beautiful blue skies in the French capital, the fourth seed was broken twice early in the opening set before clawing her way back into the match from 5-1 down, by pinning her opponent behind the baseline and testing the Australian’s backhand as she rediscovered her groundstrokes.

The Ukrainian wrapped up the match with a comfortable second set, to stretch her head-to-head lead over Tomljanovic to 3-0.

“It was not an easy start and I had to really wake up. I had to step up my game,” Svitolina said straight after the match.

Svitolina arrived in Paris as one of six players with a chance of ending the tournament as World No. 1, and had not failed to make it to the second round of a Grand Slam since the U.S. Open in 2014.

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - May 27, 2018 Ukraine's Elina Svitolina in action during her first round match against Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The 23-year-old struggled to find her rhythm early on until the eight game when a Tomljanovic double fault handed Svitolina a second break point of the game. The Australian then hit long to make it 5-3 and Svitolina launched her comeback.

Tomljanovic lost the opening set with a cautious second serve that was dispatched by Svitolina, the Australian slamming her racket into the clay in an outburst of frustration after surrendering a four-game lead.

Svitolina dictated the second set, spreading the ball across the baseline and offering up some deft drop shots that stretched her opponent.

Slideshow (5 Images)

At 3-4 down in the second, Tomljanovic smacked a double-handed backhand into the net to hand Svitolina a break point, which she won easily before closing out the set.

Svitolina will next face either 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone — here this year as a qualifier — or Viktoria Kuzmova, who play later on Sunday.

Reporting by Richard Lough

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