Facing a tough second round test against a quarterfinalist from last season, No.5 seed Elina Svitolina responded admirably to losing the opening set to see off Tsvetana Pironkova 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 and advance to the third round of Roland Garros.
Though Pironkova came into Roland Garros after injury struggles, on a seven-match losing skid and having won one set since February, the Bulgarian showed little signs of rust with a dominant display against in-form Mona Barthel in the first round, and continued that form against Svitolina.
“I didn’t play her before, but…I know her for many years. I watched couple of matches of hers. I knew what to expect from her,” Svitolina said. “I think today she was playing really very good. I was just waiting for my chance…because I didn’t play that bad in the first set, but I think she was playing really amazing from the start.”
Pironkova struck nearly half of her 25 match winners in the opening set, as she ran off the last four games to move ahead in the match. Both players found themselves in marathon service games for much of the match – beginning in the opener, as three of the first six went to deuce.
The first six games of the second set followed a similar pattern, as the No.5 seed earned her first break of the match in the first game, leading to a stretch of six straight breaks of serve between the two players.
“She returns very good. So it was quite normal for us, I think. We was returning good, putting more pressure on opponent’s serve,” Svitolina said about the early stages of the second set. “I was very, very happy that I could find the way to win in the second set, and then really find my game back. Because I think I didn’t finish so good the first set, and I was a bit struggling with my movement, but in the end, I was very happy that I could go through this and just find my game and win.”
Svitolina opened a 40-0 lead in the sixth game, and after hanging on to serve on her third game point to lead 4-2, she engineered another crucial break in the ninth game to tie the match at one set apiece.
The Ukrainian’s aggression kicked up in the second and third sets, as the No.5 seed stroked 23 of her 32 winners in the match en route to the comeback, which she sealed in the decider by winning the last three games after Pironkova threatened to erase an early 3-0 lead.
“I did today what I had to do. Second and third sets were not easy, but I think I was ready with my game at the important moments when I needed, and it worked really good,”‘ Svitolina said. “I was waiting for the right ball, because Tsvetana is playing very good…when someone hits very big. I think I changed at the right time, but as I said, the first set she was playing really amazing shots and hitting the lines and net cords a lot.
“I was trying to accept this. You know, tried still to go for my shots. I think I did today what I — yeah, in the right moment was I brought my game and it was good.”