Main draw action finally got underway on Tuesday at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Margarita Gasparyan both progressing into the second round with victories in the evening session. These were the first matches that I watched from St. Petersburg; I really like the main stadium and the court seems fast, which is great to see. I’m fed up of all the slow indoor courts we’ve seen of late, particularly Singapore and Paris/London for the men so it’s nice to see what, appears to me at least (!), to be a speedy court and a nice colour too. It’s a shame about the attendance not being great but to be honest, that’s not much of a surprise.
After Pavlyuchenkova laboured her way past Klara Koukalova in three sets, Gasparyan followed with a routine 6-1 6-2 win over Bojana Jovanovski in 56 minutes. It’s quite a stat to say that this result matched Jovanovski’s best result of 2016 in terms of games won…
Shenzhen, R1: Friedsam d. Jovanovski, 6-0 6-3
Hobart, QR1: Cepede Royg d. Jovanovski, 6-0 6-0
Australian Open, R1: Cornet d. Jovanovski, 6-1 6-0
St. Petersburg, R1: Gasparyan d. Jovanovski, 6-1 6-2
Jovanovski was clearly struggling with a shoulder injury, which was heavily strapped… she wasn’t even doing her customary grunt! Her serve was lacklustre and it seemed to be affecting her groundstrokes too as she was making some really wild unforced errors. Jovanovski pulled out of Fed Cup action at the weekend, I assume for the same reason. Hopefully she will take some time to heal her shoulder because playing through it with her current results is clearly not working…
Despite Jovanovski not offering up much resistance, Gasparyan played a good match. She was very solid with her groundstrokes and her backhand continues to be a fascinating stroke; it’s such a funky shot but when she connects and hits that winner down-the-line, it’s pretty wonderful to watch. The one weakness in this match was her serve, which she lost rhythm on in the second set. Gasparyan served up seven double faults; however she was still much more stable compared to Jovanovski who won just one point on serve in the first set and was broken on six occasions.
Gasparyan is currently at number 43 in the world and looks set to continue rising in 2016. The 21-year-old Russian didn’t play any WTA main draws through the first half of 2015 and while she did manage to win 3 ITF titles, she isn’t defending a large amount of points. If you want to hear more from Gasparyan, check out this week’s edition of the WTA Insider podcast. I really enjoyed this episode which also features interviews with Daria Kasatkina and Elizaveta Kulichkova. They all came across well but particularly Kulichkova who was really endearing and sounds like a fun character.
Gasparyan progresses to a super intriguing second round match against another Serb in the number four seed, Ana Ivanovic. While Ivanovic improved match-by-match in Melbourne, she’s still had a troubled start to the year and will be vulnerable. The one concern for me though for Gasparyan would be the serve; if it’s as disrupted as it was against Jovanovski, it could get the Ivanovic treatment. Therefore, while i’m very tempted to go for an upset, I would give the edge to Ivanovic. As a note, I alwayssss pick the wrong upsets! Anyway, that’s the match of the day at 6.30pm local time in Russia and i’ll be rushing back from work to hopefully catch some of it…