There would be a blockbuster match-up in the first round of the tight-packed draw at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia, with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova facing off against former Top 5 player Samantha Stosur in the opening round. Both players had achieved much success on the courts in the past, and it would be a mouth-watering clash occurring in the first round.
Both players have met on a court for six times in the past, with their head-to-head record currently being tied at 3-3. Two of their matches were played on clay courts, and surprisingly it was Pavlyuchenkova who triumphed on both occasions despite Stosur being a former Roland Garros finalist. Their last meeting came at this year’s Sydney International, with the Russian prevailing in two easy sets.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had some mixed results this season thus far, reaching a total of five quarterfinals and earning four Top 10 wins in the process. Her transition from hard court to clay court tournaments could be considered a little disappointing after she lost her sole Fed Cup match this year and eventually caused Russia to fall to a shock defeat.
However, she immediately bounced back to clinch the title in Rabat as the top-seeded player, which she failed to back up with as fatigue resulted in her first round loss against Sorana Cirstea in the first round of the Mutua Madrid Open, a tournament where she had the golden opportunity to rise in the rankings.
Samantha Stosur’s season can only be described as disappointing after she only managed to reach two quarterfinals throughout the first five months of play. Clay was a surface she used to excel on, but her performances this year proved otherwise. An appearance at the Volvo Car Open saw her fall in the second round against Irina-Camelia Begu, before a first-round loss to Anastasija Sevastova at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
Furthermore, Stosur is the only player in the Top 100 to be defending more than 70% of their points in the 52-week rankings, meaning to say that her performances in this two months have to be extraordinary. She showed some improvement last week when she got in a battle with the red-hot Simona Halep at the Mutua Madrid Open, eventually falling in three sets.
This match is part of the very tough first quarter in the draw, with world number one Angelique Kerber, former world number one Maria Sharapova, Lucie Safarova, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Laura Siegemund and Simona Halep all lurking in this quarter.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova looks to dictate play throughout the match, but the unseeded Australian would definitely also try to achieve that. Pavlyuchenkova has largely struggled with consistency through this year, and her serve has been unusually solid in her past matches. The Russian won their last two meetings, and if she could play her best tennis in this match, the victory should not be much of a problem for her.
Stosur would have to rely on her excellent kick serve to keep Pavlyuchenkova back at the baseline and take the opportunity to go up to the net and finish off the points considering her status as a former world number one in doubles. With the conditions in Rome favoring the player with less power, Pavlyuchenkova edges this match-up in this factor. To win this, Stosur has to control play and frustrate the Russian, forcing her to lose focus and the momentum, which will result in continuous unforced errors coming off her racquet.