Pavlyuchenkova’s 2017 so far
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had a pretty good 2017 so far, just that she had some inconsistent and disappointing results at some of the tournaments. Starting off the season in Auckland, the Russian fell in straight sets against Julia Goerges as she crashed out of the tournament in the first round as the sixth seed. Proceeding on to the Sydney International, Pavlyuchenkova earned some great victories over there with wins over Stosur in the first round and an upset over compatriot Kuznetsova in the second round before losing to Eugenie Bouchard in the quarterfinals.
The Australian Open could arguably be her best performance this year as she stormed her way to the quarterfinals, achieving victories over the red-hot Elina Svitolina and Kuznetsova once again in the process. She had her chances in the quarterfinal against eventual finalist Venus Williams but still fell in straight sets. It was only disappointment from then on as she fell in the second round of the Qatar Total Open to Cibulkova, who is also her opponent in this match, and the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships against qualifier Ons Jabeur.
Cibulkova’s 2017 so far
Dominika Cibulkova had a disappointing start to the new season as she fell in the quarterfinals in her first event of the year at the Brisbane International where she lost in straight sets to Alize Cornet, the eventual finalist. Moving on to the Sydney International, she disappointingly lost to Eugenie Bouchard in the second round as the eventual semifinalist was just too good for her. At the first grand slam of the year, Cibulkova faltered in a tough loss against Makarova in three sets despite mounting a successful comeback in the second set.
An encouraging result at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy saw her reach the semifinals but fell to Yulia Putintseva in three tight sets, and she followed it up with a second consecutive semifinal appearance at the Qatar Total Open where she fell victim to Karolina Pliskova’s powerful game. The Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships saw Cibulkova fall to Makarova in yet another three-set match, with the outcome being the same as their thriller in Melbourne.
Pavlyuchenkova in Indian Wells
The Russian reached the fourth round with a pair of impressive wins over Anett Kontaveit and Barbora Strycova. Looking in great form all week, she managed to overcome the tough qualifier in the Estonian and prevailed in straight sets, before outclassing Barbora Strycova in every aspect as she strolled to another routine victory in two sets.
Cibulkova in Indian Wells
The Slovakian had to battle her way through to draw to reach this stage as she prevailed in two consecutive three-set matches, first starting with the triumph over Jelena Ostapenko in the second round and she followed it up with a thrilling win over Kristyna Pliskova in the third round, saving 18 break points and one match point in the process.
Cibulkova leads their head-to-head record by five matches to two, with their last meeting being in Doha where the Slovakian came back from a 2-5 deficit in the first set to win the set and eventually sealing up the match in three sets. Pavlyuchenkova’s last victory in this match-up was in 2014 when the Russian cruised to a routine victory in straight sets at the Cincinnati Masters, and she would be looking to replicate the scoreline tomorrow.
Cibulkova definitely has more weapons here, with her characteristic solid groundstrokes and smart serves, and that would definitely aid her in the pursuit of a win. Her drop shots from the baseline and her offensive style of play can cause lots of trouble for Pavlyuchenkova, and she would be using them more often to disrupt the Russian’s rhythm. Known for having slow starts, Cibulkova would want to avoid them during the match as her opponent would most likely take advantage of her poor start and jump out to an early lead, just like in her match against Kristyna Pliskova in the third round.
Pavlyuchenkova also has a baseline game which can be on par with Cibulkova’s, but the only concern is that the consistency of the Russian’s top form as she is known to be very inconsistent, and was often the main reason for her losses. Confidence also comes into play here as Pavlyuchenkova will need them if she wants to create an upset in the fourth round, but she would definitely be motivated by her recent performances.
Prediction:  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d.  Dominika Cibulkova in three sets