1. Simona Halep v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Wuhan, R2)
Simona Halep‘s first match of the week at 2015 Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open will be against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Tuesday. In a first round match that screamed three lopsided sets, Pavlyuchenkova produced a remarkably clean performance to dispatch her fellow compatriot, Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets, 6-0 6-1. The key to Pavlyuchenkova’s success was the return; she hit six return winners and consistently hit with depth forcing Kuznetsova onto the back foot. Kuznetsova won just 3 out of 17 points on her second serve.
While Pavlyuchenkova served well, her opponent also missed a lot of returns. Kuznetsova earnt her first game of the match at 2-1 in the second set and it looked like the tide could turn with Pavs serving up a double fault on the first point on the next game. Pavlyuchenkova has always been capable of playing great tennis but it never normally lasts for a whole match! The 24-year-old continued to strike the ball effortlessly off both wings and won the final four games to seal the win in just 48 (!) minutes. It was Pavlyuchenkova’s first victory over Kuznetsova in four meetings.
Halep arrives in Wuhan following a surprising quarter-final loss to Denisa Allertova in Guangzhou, 6-4 6-3. The Romanian world number two will be searching for her first ever win in Wuhan after losing her first match last year to Garbiñe Muguruza. Halep leads the head-to-head with Pavlyuchenkova, 5-0, and has dropped just one set to the Russian player. The pair last met in Cincy earlier this year where Halep won, 7-6(3) 6-2. It’s hard not to get on board the Pavs train after her performance against Kuznetsova. However, when you take a step back and look at her entire year, it’s unlikely she will be able to produce such a clincial display again. Add to that the one-sided head-to-head… i’m going for Halep.
Prediction: Halep d. Pavlyuchenkova in 2 sets
2. Petra Kvitova v Daria Gavrilova (Wuhan, R2)
Defending champion, Petra Kvitova will open her 2015 Wuhan campaign against Daria Gavrilova. While Kvitova had a bye in the first round, Gavrilova snapped a four match losing streak in defeating Teliana Pereira in the first round, 6-2 7-6(7) in one hour and 41 minutes. Despite Gavrilova’s recent form, it was an expected result as Pereira, currently ranked at number 51 in the world, had won just one match on the hard courts all year with all her success coming on the clay. Gavrilova has had an exceptional year although her results have not been as impressive during the second half of the year compared to the first. Since Wimbledon, Gavrilova has lost in the first round at five of her last eight tournaments although she has still picked up some impressive top 20 wins along the way beating Sam Stosur and Lucie Safarova in Toronto, and Sara Errani (in Cincy).
Kvitova has had a rocky year that has been plagued by health issues. She skipped Indian Wells and Miami earlier this year due to exhaustion and then revealed that she had been diagnosed with Mononucleosis after Wimbledon. Despite this, she has still managed to produce some decent results. Titles in Madrid and New Haven, both coming out of the blue, were noteworthy as were improved performances at the Slams. Previously, Kvitova hadn’t reached the second week of a Slam other than Wimbledon since 2012 but she achieved that feat twice in 2015.
Gavrilova’s win over Pereira will no doubt have been a confidence boost and Kvitova comes in cold having not played since the US Open. Gavrilova is a tricky opponent and if she has a good day, she can can certainly cause Kvitova some problems with her excellent movement and variety from the baseline. After last year, it is evident that the courts in Wuhan suits Kvitova’s game. Gavrilova has committed a lot of unforced errors in recent matches and if she is to going to keep rising up the rankings then she needs to be more solid with the game she plays. I’m always wary with Petra (I know I write this every time but it’s necessary haha) but i’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and a victory in three sets.
Prediction: Kvitova d. Gavrilova in 3 sets