In one of just two all-seeded match-ups from the top half of the draw, the number 11 seed, Elina Svitolina will play the number 24 seed, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round of the 2017 Australian Open.
Svitolina and Pavlyuchenkova have both yet to drop a set this week in Melbourne. Svitolina defeated the qualifier, Julia Boserup, 6-4 6-1 in 76 minutes on Wednesday. Svitolina admitted in her post-match interview that she didn’t play her best but there were some promising signs as she served out the first set to love and closed proceedings in the second set with a return winner, having been 40-0 down on Boserup’s serve. Svitolina has made a very encouraging start to the year, spearheaded by her win over the world number one, Angelique Kerber in Brisbane.
Pavlyuchenkova enjoyed a routine win over another qualifier, Natalia Vikhlyantseva, 6-2 6-2. It was a sharp and focused second round display from Pavlyuchenkova who finished with statistics of 30 winners to 13 unforced errors. Pavlyuchenkova, who reached the quarter-finals of Sydney last week, has made a positive start to her Australian Open campaign. While her talent is undeniable, advancing past the players she is expected to beat has often been a stumbling block.
Head-to-head record: Pavlyuchenkova won their first two clashes in Sofia (6-2 6-4, 2013) and Beijing (6-4 1-6 6-3, 2015) but it was Svitolina who won their most recent encounter, a tight two setter in Tokyo towards the end of 2016, 7-6(5) 6-4
Interesting stat: The winner of this match will reach the second week of the Australian Open for the first time in their career. Svitolina has only ever made the second week of the French Open, while Pavlyuchenkova will be looking to complete the clean sweep of second week showings at the Slams.
Final thoughts: This will be a severe test of Svitolina’s credentials against an in-form, Pavlyuchenkova. The Russian player has the far more expansive game, but Svitolina has qualities that make her extremely tough to break down. Svitolina has been more positive in her on-court tactics over the last six months and while still relying on her defence and movement as her greatest strengths, has looked to come forward more and go for her shots in the high-stake moments. Svitolina will need to step up her game – if she can be a little more positive than her first two outings, granted she hasn’t needed to, then I think she’ll take this in three sets.