Australian Open third round preview: Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Jelena Jankovic

Australian Open third round preview: Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Jelena Jankovic

Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova continues her quest for a third Grand Slam singles title, against former world number one Jelena Jankovic in one of the ties of the round, in the third round at the Australian Open.

Tevon King

The women's draw of the 2017 Australian Open has seen 13 seeds fall by the wayside before the third round. It is a slight improvement from last year, as 12 seeds fell in the first round alone. The top section of the women's draw is slightly easier than the bottom half of the draw, with defending champion Angelique Kerber, French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova herself, whilst Serena Williams, Dominika Cibulkova, Karolina Pliskova, Caroline Wozniacki and Johanna Konta are all in a strong bottom half section of the draw.

The eighth seed is a three-time quarterfinalist at the Australian Open, and the two-time Grand Slam singles champion has been playing some inspired tennis as of late. The Russian retained a title for the first time in her career, last year at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, which allowed her to clinch the last spot and qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore.

A familiar face, on the other side of the net to Kuznetsova, will be former world number one Jelena Jankovic. The Serb lost her opening round matches in Shenzhen and Hobart respectively to Simona Halep and Monica Niculescu. Jankovic is currently ranked at 54 in the world but injuries intervened last year, which caused her to miss some parts of the season.

How they got here

The two-time Grand Slam champion has only dropped four games en route to this mouth-watering third round clash with Jankovic, in the battle of former top two players. Kuznetsova thrashed Colombia's Mariana Duque-Marino, 6-0, 6-1, and in the second round, the Russian outclassed Australian wildcard Jaimee Fourlis, 6-2, 6-1.

Meanwhile, Jankovic's progress through to the third round has been tougher than Kuznetsova's. The 2008 Australian Open semifinalist defeated 26th seed Laura Siegemund, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 in the first round, and the German defeated Jankovic in the second round last year. In the second round, Jankovic was up against Siegemund's compatriot, Julia Goerges, and the German is no slouch in Melbourne as she's reached the fourth round in Melbourne on three occasions. The former world number one prevailed in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round in Melbourne for the first time since 2014.

Jankovic will provide a tough test for Kuznetsova (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)
Jankovic will provide a tough test for Kuznetsova (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)

Their history

Kuznetsova and Jankovic have met on 14 occasions, and the world number 54 leads 8-6. The duo is deadlocked at 5-5 in their meetings on hard courts, and Jankovic leads 3-1 on clay.

Jankovic won their first meeting in the fourth round of the US Open in 2006 in three sets, however, Kuznetsova would win their next two hard court encounters in the same year in Stuttgart and Zurich. The former world number one would level their head-to-head at 2-2 by winning their first clay court meeting in the final of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome, 7-5, 6-1 in 2007. The duo would meet four times in 2008 with both players winning twice.

Kuznetsova defeated Jankovic in the semifinals in Dubai, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, followed by a three-set victory in a thriller in the quarterfinals in Tokyo, 2-6, 7-5, 7-5. Furthermore, the Serb would gain her revenge by getting the better off Kuznetsova in the final of Beijing, 6-2, 6-2, and they met at the WTA Championships, 7-6 (6), 6-4.

The two-time Grand Slam champion recorded her fifth victory over Jankovic in the quarterfinals in Rome, 6-1, 7-6 (3) in 2009, and Jankovic would defeat the Russian in their next two Fed Cup in meetings in 2010 and 2012. Kuznetsova won their second round meeting in 2013 at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, 0-6, 6-2, 7-5, and once again the duo met in Rome with Jankovic defeating Kuznetsova in straight sets and in Guangzhou in straight sets in 2015.

Kuznetsova will be hoping to go deep in Melbourne (Photo by Cameron Spencer / Getty Images)
Kuznetsova will be hoping to go deep in Melbourne (Photo by Cameron Spencer / Getty Images)

Who wins?

The pair of 31-year-old's separated by just four months will look at this match as a winnable tie. Kuznetsova is the favorite despite trailing their head-to-head, and she has been in top form since towards of 2016. Garbine Muguruza, Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki defeated the Russian at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open last year. Therefore, the only best players have got the better off her at Slams. This section of the draw has opened up with fourth seed Simona Halep losing in the first round, and Kuznetsova has a potential quarterfinal matchup with seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams.

Jankovic is a counterpuncher, and the Serb has the ability to slide on hard courts which have become modern in the past decade. The former world number one's groundstrokes are good, and she has a scintillating forehand down the line shot. However, she serves is the weakness in her game, and the eighth-seeded Russian is a terrific returner.

The two-time Grand Slam champion's game includes a two-handed backhand which can cause plenty of her opponent's problems. Russia's number one tennis player is one of the best athletes on tour with a good forehand, which she puts topspin on. Both players like to dominate play from the baseline. Furthermore, Jankovic likes to employ the drop shot which Kuznetsova will be more than capable of retrieving due to her speed.

This is the first scheduled in the Hisense Arena at 11:30 am local time, and the winner of this match will face 11th seed Elina Svitolina or Kuznetsova's fellow Russian, the 24th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the fourth round.

Prediction: Kuznetsova in three sets