An all-top 20 match-up opens up proceedings at the Apia International in Sydney on Monday with the world number 10, Angelique Kerber going up against the world number 19, Elina Svitolina. Kerber arrives in Sydney having reached the final of the Brisbane International with wins over Camila Giorgi, Madison Brengle, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Carla Suárez Navarro, but came up short against Victoria Azarenka in the final. On the whole it was a very encouraging week for Kerber, who also reached the doubles final with Andrea Petkovic.
Svitolina was in action at the Hopman Cup where she won all three of her singles matches through the round robin stage, beating Vicky Duval (6-4 6-1), Karolina Pliskova (7-5 6-2) and Jarmila Wolfe (6-3 6-3). Along with partner, Alexandr Dolgopolov, they qualified for the final. Unfortunately, the week didn’t end on the best note for Svitolina who lost her final singles match to Daria Gavrilova, 6-4 7-6(6). Svitolina had led 6-1 in the second set tiebreak, but failed to convert on five set points. Gavrilova deserved the win as she was the more aggressive player and once again, Svitolina was too passive when it really mattered.
Head-to-head record: This will be their sixth encounter in three years with Kerber leading the head-to-head, 3-2. Kerber won the first two matches and Svitolina won the next two, notably a come-from-behind, 4-6 7-5 6-3 victory in Brisbane last year where she recovered from a set and two breaks down. In their most recent encounter, Kerber comfortably won in Stanford last year, 6-3 6-1.
Analysis: There have been some question marks around whether Kerber will compete in Sydney. Personally I think she will based on what she was saying in her press conferences in Brisbane. On the whole, the Hopman Cup was a good week for Svitolina, particularly notching up a first win over Pliskova. However, the loss to Gavrilova was an example of what concerns me about the Ukranian player. When things gets tight, she often sits back and doesn’t seize the opportunity. It won’t be a straightforward habit to get out of as this is her natural game… and it will still win her a lot of matches this year as her baseline game is excellent. Drawing Kerber in the first round is rough as she’d probably have the edge over most players in the draw. Both players suffered tough losses in their last matches so will have something to prove… I think Kerber will rebound the stronger.
Prediction: Kerber d. Svitolina in 2 sets