Elina Svitolina has sounded the first warning that she intends to be the woman to beat in 2018 with a resounding triumph over surprise qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich to claim the Brisbane International title on Saturday night.
A ruthless 6-2, 6-1 scoreline delivered the Ukrainian her 10th career title – five of those came last year – at Pat Rafter Arena.
An upset of defending champion Karolina Pliskova in the semifinals was enough to launch her back up to No.4 in the world in time for Australian Open seedings.
And landing the silverware in the final will only serve to bolster her confidence as she heads to Melbourne with her eyes fixed firmly on a maiden grand slam trophy.
The defeat ended the extraordinary run of 88th-ranked Sasnovich, with the Belarusian best known prior to this year’s event for her shock defeat of US Open champion Sloane Stephens in last year’s losing Fed Cup final in Minsk.
Having won seven straight matches, an eighth in nine days proved a bridge too far with heavy strapping around both legs hinting at the toll her heavy workload had taken.
The Ukranian third seed took advantage of an opponent playing her first top-level final, countering any brief resistance with some superb ball striking on Pat Rafter Arena to wrap things up in 65 minutes.
Svitolina jumped to a 3-0 lead to start the rout before Sasnovich found range with her dangerous backhand and briefly threatened to make a contest of it.
But Svitolina unleashed a backhand barrage of her own to break again and seal the first set, before running away with the second set to claim the crown and have her named engraved on the Evonne Goolagong Cawley trophy.
“I want to say congrats to Aliaksandra, coming through the qualifiers is always very tough and challenging,” Svitolina said.
“On behalf of all the players I want to say thank you because it’s always very special to play in front of this crowd, it’s amazing.”
Having reached the decider, Sasnovich is projected to move inside the world’s top 60 for the first time.
The exhausted 23-year-old extended an apology to the crowd after the one-sided affair.
But Sasnovich, who has been eating mushroom risotto from the same French restaurant all week, could still crack a joke on court after the match.
“Sorry for my play today, “she said. “The risotto didn’t help me yesterday to win this match.
“Thanks to the Belarusian people for supporting me … my grandmother, my mother, my sister as well watching me on TV.”