Malaysian Open R2: (2) Elina Svitolina vs (Q) Risa Ozaki
Elina Svitolina is the highest seed left in the draw in Kuala Lumpur after Roberta Vinci suffered a shock first round exit on Tuesday night. The Ukrainian has a wonderful opportunity to claim her fourth career title this week and her first under the guidance of new coach Justine Henin. The 21-year-old will face Japanese qualifier Risa Ozaki in the second round on Thursday, a match she will start as the heavy favourite.
Svitolina’s start to the season has generally been quite disappointing. The Ukrainian suffered an early round exit at the Australian Open and has only won back-to-back matches at one event. The Malaysian Open is a great chance to Svitolina to gain much needed winning momentum heading into the big premier mandatory events at Indian Wells and Miami. Elina cruised through her opening round match in Kuala Lumper, recording a crushing 6-1 6-1 victory over Miyo Kato. Svitolina seems very focused this week and well positioned to contend for the title.
Risa Ozaki is having a great week in Kuala Lumpur. Ozaki won a couple of close matches to advance through the qualifying draw before recording a surprising easy 6-0 6-2 victory over Elizaveta Kulichkova, one of the best victories of the 21-year-old’s career. Ozaki will face the toughest challenge of her career thus far when she comes up against Svitolina in the second round on Thursday.
This is a big mismatch of paper; Svitolina is clearly the more accomplished player. Svitolina rarely loses to players that she should beat and I can’t see this match breaking that trend. Ozaki is not used to playing opponents of Svitolina’s calibre and is likely to struggle in this match-up. Svitolina should win this comfortably.