WTA Beijing, 3rd Round Previews: Pennetta v Pavlyuchenkova, Ivanovic v Kuznetsova

1. Flavia Pennetta v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Beijing, R1)

Pavlyuchenkova

The 2015 US Open champion, Flavia Pennetta (still can’t get over this) returned to action in Beijing where she has won her first two matches. In the first round, Pennetta overcame a game effort from the Chinese wildcard, Xinyun Han, 7-5 4-6 6-4. Pennetta also needed three sets in the second round to get past Teliana Pereira who had won just one match on hard courts all year prior to Beijing. Pennetta remains in the hunt for Singapore (currently at #8 in the live rankings with Serena removed) and will need a win against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round to keep her chances alive.

In a high quality match, Pavlyuchenkova defeated Elina Svitolina in the second round, 6-4 1-6 6-3. This was some of the best tennis that Pavlyuchenkova has played all year and supports her recent upturn in form after a miserable first half of 2015. There were two crucial moments in the deciding set; Pavlyuchenkova saved four break points in a eight deuce game to hold to 2-1 and she produced some bold and attacking play to break at 4-3 to bring up an opportunity to serve for the match. Pavlyuchenkova double faulted on her first match point but managed (I was waiting for it to all come crashing down) to seal the win.

I’ve written before that I think Pavlyuchenkova is one of the cleanest ball strikers on the tour and I stand by that premise. Unfortunately, her focus and consistency have frequently let her down. In the past couple of years, Pavlyuchenkova has been capable of losing to pretty much anyone. However, she still has the game, *when* its firing, that can threaten most of the current top ten players.

In their current head-to-head, Pennetta leads 2-0, with three set victories at the French Open (2008) and Cincy (2011). There’s no doubt who played the better match in the second round but Pennetta is one of those players who can gather pace and momentum if she can get through the first few rounds of a tournament. I’m slightly wary that Pavlyuchenkova took a medical time-out during her match against Svitolina, but i’m going to take a chance and go for Pavs in this one.

Prediction: Pavlyuchenkova d. Pennetta in 3 sets

2. Ana Ivanovic v Svetlana Kuznetsova (Beijing, R3)

Kuznetsova

It’s been a disappointing year for Ana Ivanovic, particularly when you compare it to what she achieved in 2014. On Tuesday, she produced one of her best displays in a longgg time to defeat the Wuhan champ, Venus Williams, 7-6(3) 6-2. Despite being obviously fatigued after Wuhan, Venus showed her class by going up a break of serve in the first set; Ivanovic though, surprisingly unperturbed, broke straight back, won the tiebreak, and then fought back from an early break down in the second set to seal just a third win over Venus. The way this draw has opened up, Ivanovic has a prime opportunity to go deeper and end 2015 on a high note.

Ivanovic will play Svetlana Kuznetsova on Thursday in what will be a 14th career meeting. The pair have played at least once every year since 2010. Kuznetsova somehow managed to eek out a win over Sloane Stephens in the second round, 3-6 6-3 6-4. Normally Kuznetsova is the player who gets a case of the yips deep in a third set but on this occasion it was Stephens. The American player was twice up a break in the decider and had two break points to lead 5-3. She failed to convert and promptly lost in a shower of unforced errors.

Ivanovic leads Kuznetsova in the head-to-head, 10-3, and has won five of their last six encounters. I would have expected this to be a close head-to-head but Ivanovic has dominated in recent years. For that reason and based on her performance on Tuesday, i’d expect Ivanovic to win this one.

Prediction: Ivanovic d. Kuznetsova in 2 sets

9 thoughts on “WTA Beijing, 3rd Round Previews: Pennetta v Pavlyuchenkova, Ivanovic v Kuznetsova

  1. James you are a brave man picking Pavs:),I totally agree with your thoughts,she is one of the cleanest strikers of the ball in the WTA,in saying that some of her shot selections at times,her lack of focus makes me want to shake her:) I feel Flavia will be too solid,she plays the percentages better.Flavia to win.

    I am a big fan of Sveta and I would love to see her defeat Ana.Ana can throw in a shocker of a match,though going on both players previous performances.Ana to win in straights sets.

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    • I agree with both of you about the first mentioned match, but I would add that I did not like the way Flavia present herself, sure it was a first match, but still. I actually saw also Flavia’s performance in doubles today and she looked really solid from the base line to me, I think it was a good preparation for next match and she will be the winner. Of course with Pavs, you never know and this is the match you do not want to put your money on.

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  2. I’d have thought Svetlana would have a good h2h versus Ana actually. She’s a great tactician so it seems odd that Ivanovic has dominated. They have two of the best forehands in the game so I’m excited

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    • Same here. Its just impossible to predict one sigle match in this tournament, but actually not for James. Good job! If Kerber doesnt play at least semi final here, I will just stop watching this tournament like for ever :))

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