MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Elina Svitolina showed not an ounce of sentiment as she gave 15-year-old compatriot Marta Kostyuk a 59-minute lesson in grand slam tennis to reach the fourth round of the Australia Open for the first time on Friday.
Qualifier Kostyuk became the youngest player to reach the third round of a grand slam in over 20 years on Wednesday but her dream run was brought to a shuddering halt in a 6-2 6-2 loss to her fellow Ukrainian on Rod Laver Arena.
The teenager made an excellent start by breaking Svitolina in the first game of the match but from then on it was pretty much all one-way traffic as the in-form fourth seed set up a meeting with Czech qualifier Denisa Allertova.
Svitolina, showing no desire to spend a minute longer in the heat than necessary and no sign of the injury issues she reported after her second round match, went through when Kostyuk served up her ninth double fault of the contest.
“It’s very special to me, I always love coming to Australia but I never got beyond the third round,” Svitolina said on court.
“It was sad that I was playing a Ukrainian girl, it’s always difficult playing someone from your own country, but I’m happy that I’m still alive in this tournament.”
Svitolina was one of the pre-tournament favourites after winning five tour titles last year and the Brisbane International warm-up to start this campaign.
One of five players who have a chance to finish the Australian Open as world number, she is now the only seed left in her section of the draw.
“It’s tough to be seeded because everyone plays pretty freely against you and you have to be ready for tough matches from the start of the tournament,” she said.
“It’s tough but I always try and stay positive and take each match as it comes.”
Svitolina made a slow start in the searing heat but her serve was rock solid after the first game reverse and she broke three times to clinch the set when Kostyuk, on one knee, flopped a forehand into the net.
Kostyuk left the court for a change of clothes before the second set but it made no difference and Svitolina ruthlessly pounced on anything loose from the teenager, particularly from her second serve, to break another two times.
Svitolina afterwards paid tribute to the fighting spirit of her compatriot, who on Monday became the youngest player to win a match at the Australian Open since Martina Hingis’s quarter-final run in 1996.
“She’s a great fighter, she fought right until the end, and she has a great future and we’re gonna hear a lot more about her,” said Svitolina.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)