11th seed Elina Svitolina, who many picked to go far here, faces a real test on Friday as she faces 24th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who can be extremely dangerous, for a place in the fourth round at the Australian Open.
Pavlyuchenkova leads the head to head 2-1, though Svitolina won their most recent meeting, last year in Tokyo, in straight sets and has been in good form of late; however, the Russian certainly has the game to trouble the 11th seed.
This will be the first match on the Margaret Court Arena on Friday, and the winner will face the victor of another big third round clash, between Jelena Jankovic and eight seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.
So far in Melbourne
It is Svitolina who has arguably been the most comfortable making the third round, though Pavlyuchenkova has also played well, with neither dropping a set.
Svitolina started against Galina Voskoboeva, who entered via her Protected Ranking, and took no time in easing to an emphatic 6-0, 6-2 victory. The Ukrainian was tested a tad more in the second round, but still comfortably saw off qualifier Julia Boserup 6-4, 6-1; she will be happy with her performances so far.
It wasn’t a massively easy start for Pavlyuchenkova, though she edged a second set tiebreak to see off fellow Russian Evgeniya Rodina 6-1, 7-6 to start her campaign. The 24th seed was more comfortable in the next round, seeing off qualifier, and another Russian, Natalia Vikhlyantseva 6-2, 6-2; she too will be satisfied with her progression.
Of the two, Svitolina is the form player, and she has a reasonable chance of winning if she can play as well as she did in her first two matches here. What helps the Ukrainian is that she will not be too overpowered by the Russian and is the better mover of the two, meaning she should look to try and dictate as much as possible as she will likely be able to open up spaces to hit winners. However, one concern for Svitolina is her serving which can be erratic; she must try to serve well against Pavlyuchenkova, who has the potential to punish any weak serves with some large groundstrokes.
Serving can also be an issue for Pavlyuchenkova, and she must do this well considering Svitolina’s all-around improvement the past year or so. The Russian should also aim to try and attack as much as possible; whilst her power advantage isn’t huge, she could be able to use it effectively and finish points off early. She must also try to get the Ukrainian moving as much as possible, as she is not as good at moving and cannot afford to be pushed around the court regularly, as she will likely be punished.
This could be an intriguing battle, especially if both bring their best tennis. Pavlyuchenkova will see this as an opportunity, though is arguably too erratic and considering Svitolina’s recent form, the Ukrainian should be able to come through this, perhaps with some ease.
Prediction: Elina Svitolina in straight sets