BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom (AFP) – World number five Elina Svitolina became the latest in a series of top-10 casualties when she lost to qualifier Camila Giorgi in the second round at Birmingham on Thursday (June 22).
It is only a month since the 22-year-old Ukrainian tasted the euphoria of winning the Italian Open in Rome, but while struggling with injury, she slid to a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 second-round defeat to a player ranked outside the top 100.
One of the reasons for such a dramatic contrast was that the tournament is played on lush grass in the English midlands – utterly different to the high bouncing brick dust of the Foro Italico.
Combined with a sudden change from Wednesday’s fierce heat to drizzle and damp, it became hard for Svitolina, who has had issues with a foot problem, to cope.
Another was that Giorgi adapted to the slick surface very well, hitting some raging forehand drives, finding some good angles, and occasionally coming to the net effectively.
She increasingly played close to the standard that two years ago took her to 30 in the world.
With Dominika Cibulkova having already lost in the first round, the two leading seeds have now both departed early, following belated withdrawals from four other top-10 players.
Although this week’s event is only a warm-up for Wimbledon, it is a premier-level tournament with high prize money.
If it proves even the slightest indicator of events at Wimbledon, there are some shocks in store when the Grand Slam tournament gets under way on July 3.
Svitolina often played well in the second set and broke serve to lead early in the third, but her standards dropped away.
Afterwards she even suggested she would consider pulling out of Wimbledon.
“There is a question about it,” she admitted. “I will talk with my physios. The season is very long and I must look at the bigger picture.
“The heel feels painful and is very sensitive. I am disappointed I am out of the tournament but I am not disappointed with my performance, because I could not show even 50 per cent. Also the court was slippery which is bad for the foot.
“I am not surprised about the way Giorgi played because she always played great on grass.”
The Italian now has an enticing opportunity to enhance that reputation, as she will have a quarter-final against another surprise survivor, Ashleigh Barty, a 21-year-old Australian making her first appearance in the main draw.
On Wednesday she overcame Barbora Strycova, the eighth-seeded Czech, who is a two-time former finalist.