One of the most interesting WTA matches of the day at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia sees 9th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, a two-time finalist in Rome, take on exciting talent Daria Gavrilova for a place in the quarterfinal.
So far in Rome
Kuznetsova had a mixed start to the clay season, but has so far played well in the Italian capital. The Russian started against the tricky Caroline Garcia and though Kuznetsova did lose a first set lead, she eventually battled to a 7-5, 6-4 victory over the Frenchwoman. In the second round, the 9th seed faced fellow veteran Sam Stosur, and impressed in a 6-4, 6-4 win. Kuznetsova has played well so far, and will be tricky to beat here.
Meanwhile, Gavrilova came into Rome after a strong run at the Mutua Madrid Open and got her campaign off to a fantastic start, beating Sabine Lisicki 6-1, 7-6 in a very strong performance. However, whilst her second round was tougher, it was arguably one of her best results of her emerging career as she battled past 6th seed Simona Halep, fresh of the title in Madrid, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in a tough battle. Gavrilova has played well for most the season, and will be confident coming into this clash.
Perhaps the biggest test for both in this match will be consistency. There is no denying that both women are two of the most talented players on tour, and this has been successful for both, with Kuznetsova winning two Grand Slam titles and Gavrilova recording several big scouts in the early stages of her career. However, both are extremely erratic, and often lose matches that they should win. Both will probably need to bring their best tennis to this clash, especially if the other is playing well.
Another big test for Gavrilova is her temperament. The Australian often gets frustrated if she is playing badly, and this can often lead to a downward spiral as she becomes prone to unforced errors and loses concentration. She must certainly remain focused, and attack if Kuznetsova looks wobbly and makes too many unforced errors.
One big factor which could help Kuznetsova is her experience, though Gavrilova is an opponent in just as good, if not better, form than her and she must play a solid match to grind down the Australian. The 9th seed will have to serve well, though must also try to use her strong all-around game to dictate play and frustrate her opponent.
Head to head and surface
The two have played once before, with Kuznetsova comfortably seeing off Gavrilova in Dubai back in 2013. Considering Gavrilova’s massive improvement since then, this will mean very little in terms of Thursday’s clash.
The surface could be an interesting factor in this match. Kuznetsova has clear clay court pedigree, twice reaching the French Open final (winning the tournament in 2009) and has also gone far in several other big clay court tournaments. However, Gavrilova has arguably played better on the surface this season, and that better form could be a big factor in the outcome of this clash.
This is an extremely hard match to call, and a strong case can be made for both women in terms of winning this match. However Gavrilova will be extremely confident after some good form in 2016 and recently on the clay, and that could easily be enough to see her edge past Kuznetsova in this match.
Prediction: Daria Gavrilova in three sets