19th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova faces a tricky opponent in the first round of the US Open as crowd favourite Christina McHale looks to create the huge upset in front of her home crowd. It would be a rematch of their first round encounter in New Haven last week, with the Russian looking to replicate the win once more.
The pair has met for a total of four times in history and on all occasions, the victory went to Pavlyuchenkova. This would be their fourth meeting on hard courts and in North America, and the head-to-head could be deceiving considering that three of their four matches went the distance, and were separated by just two or fewer games in the deciding set. Pavlyuchenkova would have the upper hand coming into this encounter having beaten the same opponent just last week.
McHale’s recent results
McHale was unable to claim a win in any WTA main draw matches during the US Open Series as her poor form continued. Owning a negative win-loss record in 2017, the American’s struggles continued to plague her as she failed to find her best tennis. Being the eighth seed in Washington, McHale fell in straight sets to Eugenie Bouchard, getting bageled by the struggling Canadian in the process.
In Toronto, she was unable to qualify for the main draw after she fell in three tough sets against Kirsten Flipkens. Her poor form reflected in her results when she lost to Petra Martic in three tough sets despite being higher-ranked than her opponent.
Finally, McHale clinched a win in her home country after claiming confidence-boosting victories over Beatriz Haddad Maia and Kurumi Nara in the qualifying rounds of the Connecticut Open but fell in the final round as she crashed out of the tournament in straight sets.
However, the American was given a second chance when she was given the lucky-loser spot after Sloane Stephens withdrew from the tournament, and she faced her first round opponent Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the opening round there. Despite putting up a tough fight, McHale was still unable to rattle off the win as she eventually fell in three tight sets.
Pavlyuchenkova’s recent results
Pavlyuchenkova had a disappointing debut to remember at the Bank of the West Classic despite beating Alison Riske in a pitch-perfect display as she ultimately fell in the quarterfinals to the hard-hitting Coco Vandeweghe, being swept off the court in straight sets by the ruthless American who went on to reach the final that week in Stanford.
Moving onto the Rogers Cup held in Toronto, Pavlyuchenkova was given a very tough draw, which certainly did not help as she was defending quarterfinal points. Nonetheless, she looked like she was at her peak when she totally outclassed Alize Cornet in the first round, losing just one solitary game in the process.
However, she was unable to follow up her win after her nemesis and world number one Karolina Pliskova proved to be too strong for the Russian, sending her out of the tournament in the second round. Given a favourable draw in Cincinnati, Pavlyuchenkova blew her chances for a deep run when she wasted a set and a break lead against Lesia Tsurenko and eventually fell in three tough sets despite being two points away from victory in the second set.
Being the sixth seed in New Haven, Pavlyuchenkova defeated McHale in the first round before getting past the dark horse Carla Suarez Navarro in straight sets. She then faced Dominika Cibulkova in the quarterfinals but failed to capitalize on her chances, eventually falling in straight sets.
McHale looks to dictate play throughout the match as she possesses an aggressive style of play. However, it would be very difficult to do so against another hard-hitter in Pavlyuchenkova. The American has to put up a solid baseline game and should try to aim for the lines, moving the Russian all around the court. McHale also needs to add in some drop shots to her game, luring Pavlyuchenkova to the net, where she could be leaky. The underdog has to be playing her best tennis or else the victory could be far from her reach.
Pavlyuchenkova has to be on her toes and beware of the tough challenge that McHale would provide. The Russian’s baseline game must be firing on all cylinders and that would surely seal the deal for her. She cannot afford to be erratic against McHale, who could be driven and motivated by her home crowd. Pavlyuchenkova needs to control the proceedings and adding the slice to her groundstrokes would definitely aid her in fighting for the win.
McHale is currently in poor form while Pavlyuchenkova has lost some matches to higher-ranked players recently. The pair has met just last week with the Russian triumphing and her confidence should just get her through this encounter. McHale would unquestionably be the more popular player amongst the crowd though, which could be a factor in deciding the outcome.
Match Prediction:  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Christina McHale in three sets