St. Petersburg R2: (4) Ana Ivanovic vs Margarita Gasparyan
Wednesday’s most intriguing clash at the St. Petersburg ladies’ trophy sees Ana Ivanovic and Margarita Gasparyan clash in the second round. Ivanovic has made a very poor start to the season and after receiving a bye into the second round will face a very tough opening match in St. Petersburg against an in from Russian. Margarita Gasparyan will be looking to claim her biggest scalp and make a real name for herself in front of her home crowd, this should be a good one.
Ana Ivanovic’s Australian summer didn’t go to plan, suffering first round exits in Auckland and Sydney before ultimately making a third round exit in Melbourne. Ivanovic is yet to defeat an opponent ranked inside the top 100 in 2016. The Serb arrived in St. Petersburg several days before the beginning of the tournament and has therefore had a good amount of time to practise and adjust to the conditions. Ivanovic desperately needs to deep run at a tournament, this week could be a good opportunity for her given the relatively weak field for a premier level event.
Margarita Gasparyan’s form heading into this match is in complete contrast to Ivanovic’s. Gasparyan has made a wonderful start to the season, the Russian went on a strong run to the fourth round at the Australian Open before succumbing to Serena Williams. It was by far the Russian’s best result at a Grand Slam and certainly seems to have given the rising start a real boost of confidence. Gasparyan made a strong start to her St. Petersburg campaign on Tuesday with a commanding 6-1 6-2 victory over a struggling Bojana Jovanovski.
This will be the first career meeting between the pair and promises to be a really close match. Both ladies love to dictate play with punishing groundstrokes, it will be interesting to see who is able to dictate play the most in this match-up. This is a tough match to call because both players can be very inconsistent but it is Gasparyan who clearer has the better form heading into this match and therefore probably has the slight edge. If Gasparyan is able to maintain her composure throughout the match, I think she is capable of causing an upset here.
Prediction: Margarita Gasparyan to defeat Ana Ivanovic in 3 sets
Australian Open R4: (1) Serena Williams vs Margarita Gasparyan
Serena Williams’ quest for a seventh Australian Open title continues on Sunday when she comes up against Russian rising-star Margarita Gasparyan. There were question marks surrounding the fitness and form of Serena heading into the first Grand Slam of the year, however the world number 1 has made an awesome start to the event and is clearly the player to beat over the next week at Melbourne Park.
Serena Williams has gradually improved with each match in Melbourne this week and seems very well positioned to claim her 22nd Grand Slam title. Serena started the week by navigating her way past the dangerous Camila Giorgi with a hard-fought 6-4 7-5 victory. Serena’s next two victories were far more emphatic, a 6-1 6-2 victory over Su-Wei Hsieh and a 6-1 6-1 victory over Daria Kasatkina. Serena’s demolition of Kasatkina was particularly impressive, Serena ended that match with 27 winners and just 8 unforced errors in an extremely clean performance.
Margarita Gasparyan is having a wonderful week in Melbourne, reaching the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time in her young career. Gasparyan has advanced to the fourth round by defeating three pretty similar opponents. The Russian started the week with an impressive three set victory over Sara Errani before recording straight set victories over Kurumi Nara and Yulia Putintseva. I thought Margarita’s best performance also came in the third round, a really dominant display against Putintseva, never allowing the Kazakh to get into the match.
The only previous encounter between the pair took place in the first round at Wimbledon last year. Little was known about Gasparyan heading into that match but she gave Serena a good fight, ultimately Serena claimed a reasonably comfortable 6-4 6-1 victory over the Russian.
Gasparyan has improved significantly since her clash with Serena at Wimbledon and will head into this match feeling far more confident and as though she belongs at this level. I think this will be Serena’s greatest test of the tournament thus far. Serena is likely to rise to the occasion and will probably give the Russian a tennis lesson. Gasparyan does have the firepower to remain competitive but is unlikely to win a set.
Prediction: Serena Williams to defeat Margarita Gasparyan in 2 sets
Australian Open R3: Margarita Gasparyan vs Yulia Putintseva
A fascinating third round clash at Melbourne Park on Friday will see two rising born rising stars go head-to-head as they aim to secure a spot in the second week of Grand Slam for the very first time. Both Margarita and Yulia are both already in unprecedented territory having reached the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in their respective careers. The reward for the winner of this match is highly likely to be a fourth round clash with Serena Williams.
Prior this year’s Australian Open Margarita Gasparyan had never won a main draw match at a Grand Slam, now she suddenly has a golden opportunity to reach the second week in Melbourne. Gasparyan started the week with an extremely hard-fought 1-6 7-5 6-1 victory over Sara Errani. It was an impressive victory by the Russian especially considering how poorly she started the match. Gasparyan had the correct mindset from the start but was committing far too many unforced errors, credit to Gasparyan she kept fighting and eventually powered her way past Errani. Gasparyan backed up her impressive first round performance with a comfortable 6-4 6-4 victory over Kurumi Nara.
Yulia Putintseva is finally making an impact at the Grand Slam level. The Russian-born Kazakhstani produced the best performance of her career in the first round to defeat Caroline Wozniacki 1-6 7-6 6-4 in just over 3 hours of gruelling tennis in tough conditions. Yulia backed up the biggest victory of her career very professionally, thumping a hapless Xinyun Han 6-3 6-1. This could be the big year Putintseva has been waiting for.
This will be the first tour-level meeting between the pair. Gasparyan did defeat Yulia 6-3 6-2 at an ITF event in 2014 and I’m sure these two know each other pretty well being the same age and both coming from Russia. This is arguably the biggest match of each players’ career thus far, an amazing opportunity to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam.
I’m going to side with Putintseva here, Yulia has really impressed me this week especially in her victory over Wozniacki where she played some extremely high quality tennis. Yulia is much more consistent from the baseline and has much more variety in her game, it will take a big effort for Gasparyan to hit through Putintseva (she is capable) but I don’t think she will do it.
Prediction: Yulia Putintseva to defeat Margarita Gasparyan in 3 sets