It’s been a rather wacky start to the 2016 tennis season. Tuesday was a miserable day for the WTA with Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova both pulling out of Brisbane, and Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova retiring from their matches at the Hopman Cup and Shenzhen respectively. However, Wednesday presented some classic WTA drama… Broady v Ostapenko (for a full recap of events, check out the super recap by The Tennis Island HERE). This post is a pair of previews for two of the Brisbane quarter-finals with the other two quarters, Andrea Petkovic against Samantha Crawford and Carla Suárez Navarro playing either Garbiñe Muguruza or Varvara Lepchenko, also taking place on Thursday.
1. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova v Angelique Kerber (Brisbane, QF)
It’s a case of déjà vu in Brisbane as Angelique Kerber and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will play each other at the Brisbane International for the third time in the last four years. Pavlyuchenkova was first into the quarters with a three set win over Alizé Cornet, 6-2 1-6 6-4, her fifth consecutive victory against the Frenchwoman. Pavlyuchenkova looked nervous trying to close out the match, giving away her serve with three consecutive unforced errors; however she recovered from 30-0 on Cornet’s serve to seal the win. Pavluychenkova was a touch more explosive from the baseline, backing up the early upset win over Timea Bacsinszky.
Kerber was behind in her first match, facing a break point to go down a set and a break to Camila Giorgi; a rain delay helped to turn the match on its head with Kerber winning the 10 games of the match, coming through 5-7 6-3 6-0. There were no such problems in her second round match as she powered past Madison Brengle, 6-3 6-0 in just 61 minutes.
Head-to-head record: Kerber leads Pavlyuchenkova in their head-to-head, 4-3, with all their matches taking place in the last three years. Kerber has won their last two matches including a 7-5 6-2 victory at Wimbledon last year in their most recent encounter.
Interesting stat: In all four appearances in Brisbane, Kerber has reached the quarter-final stage.
Analysis: This won’t be a straightforward match for the seed, Kerber. Pavlyuchenkova has beaten her before and has been playing some decent tennis, not just this week, but also at the end of 2015. However, if the German player delivers the consistent level that she’s managed to bring for much of the last year then it will take something special from Pavs to break her down. Perhaps this will be fourth time lucky for Kerber in reaching a semi-final at Brisbane…
Prediction: Kerber d. Pavlyuchenkova in 2 sets
2. Victoria Azarenka v Roberta Vinci (WTA Brisbane, QF)
While the top two seeds, Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova, have both pulled out of the Brisbane International, it has opened up what was a very dangerous looking top half of the draw. One of the players to benefit is Victoria Azarenka. After an exceptionally efficient display in the first round against Elena Vesnina, winning the last 12 games of the match, Azarenka was forced to work harder in her second round match against Ysaline Bonaventure. Once again, Azarenka came from an early break down in the first set before breaking Bonaventure’s resistance at the very end. Azarenka won 6-3 6-2 and finished the match with 19 winners to 20 unforced errors.
While the draw looks to have fallen rather favourably for Azarenka, her quarter-final opponent shouldn’t be discounted. Step forward, Roberta Vinci who has looked in sensational form so far this week, defeating Jelena Jankovic and Dominika Cibulkova. Against Jankovic, Vinci played some wonderful tennis in the third set, barely missing a volley and slicing with tremendous depth and accuracy. She backed up that performance with an even more impressive showing against Cibulkova, dropping just two games.
Head-to-head record: Azarenka has yet to drop a set in three previous matches against Vinci. The pair haven’t met on tour since 2012 in Tokyo when Azarenka won, 6-4 6-2.
Analysis: Azarenka was solid against Bonaventure but if Vinci comes out all guns blazing like her first two matches, the Belarusian will have to step up her game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this go the distance but i’d expect Azarenka to raise her level from her second round performance…
Prediction: Azarenka d. Vinci in 3 sets