The Brisbane International always produces some brilliant match-ups, and 2018 is no different with Elina Svitolina and Ana Konjuh getting past their first round matches comfortably to set up a second round meeting. Read on for a dedicated match preview… And also, Happy New Year to all the readers of this blog!
Brisbane International Second Round
 Elina Svitolina (No.6) vs Ana Konjuh (No.44)
After a breakout season in 2017 which saw her win five WTA titles including a career-high ranking of No.3, Elina Svitolina is showing no signs of stopping just yet with a 6-2 6-4 victory over Carla Suarez Navarro in her first match of the 2018 season. The scoreline may suggest that it was a comfortable victory for Svitolina, it definitely wasn’t as the Ukrainian was forced to work hard in many of her service games. Svitolina showed encouraging tactics early on in the match as the World No.6 was constantly on the front foot, setting up many points with her seemingly newly improved first serve (she hit 11 aces in total!) and was looking to come forward many a times. Suarez Navarro was also good value on her first serve, but the inability to convert on her two break point opportunities (both clutch serves from Svits) and her increasingly weary second serve gave the first set to Svitolina, 6-2.
After a pep coach with her newly appointed coach, Suarez Navarro came out in the second set firing, firing two backhand down the line winners to seal her first break of the match. However, a lack of first serves, and some forceful tennis from Svitolina helped the latter to reel off three straight games.
The seventh game of the set at 3-3 was the most crucial game of the match. Suarez Navarro had three break points in a marathon nine minute game, but could not capitalise on any of them as Svitolina continued to assert her dominance by swatting down huge serves. At 4-5 in what would be the final game of the match, Suarez Navarro ended her campaign with a backhand into the net. It was a decent performance from Suarez Navarro but she was unable to close out points on some occasions and her lack of being able to perform under pressure cost her the match. On the contrary, Svitolina was super clutch on saving break points and was able to take her opportunities when they came. 36 winners from the World No.6 in total and she has a huge chance to progress further in this draw.
Ana Konjuh was one of the casualties of the really long 2017 tennis season, having had to end her season after the US Open due to injuries, and eventually underwent surgery. It was suggested that Konjuh needed a longer break from tennis and I was really surprised when I saw her in the Brisbane entry list. Even more surprising though is in the manner of how she won her first match – she couldn’t have asked for a better comeback trumped Kiki Bertens 6-1 6-2 in what it sounded like a display of brutal and accurate hitting.
Head to head: The head to head is tied at one win apiece. Konjuh won their first match in 2015 in three sets, but Svitolina trounced the Croatian 6-1 6-1 in their most recent match in Moscow.
Stat: Svitolina had a 35-9 record on hard courts in 2017, while Konjuh ended the year on a miserable 12-10 record on this surface.
Thoughts: If Konjuh is on fire and precise with her groundstrokes then Svitolina is in for a tough ride. Svitolina played really aggressively against CSN but Konjuh is a different type of player and will definitely pressurise Svitolina with her hard-hitting game. Svitolina has notably failed to rack up wins against big hitters, with losses to Caroline Garcia (in Singapore and Beijing) , Madison Keys (in US Open) Ostapenko (in Wimbledon) coming to mind. However this is a new season and I’ll like to see how Svitolina plays this one, coming forward or staying back and playing defense. Super interested to see how this one pans out; I feel the slight edge is with the Ukranian.
Final Prediction: Svitolina d. Konjuh in three sets
Brisbane predictions are here, you can find them at the menu at the top of the blog as well. Thanks for reading! 🙂