Moscow R1: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Monica Niculescu
Defending Champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will begin her title defence at the Kremlin Cup with a first round encounter against Monica Niculescu. Pavlyuchenkova arrives in Moscow full confidence having won her eight title of her career last week in Linz. The Russian should continue her winning ways in Moscow when she comes up against Niculescu, an opponent who she has never lost to.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has now won 15 consecutive matches at indoor events, including three titles (Paris, Moscow and Linz). It was no surprise to see Pavlyuchenkova perform so well in Linz last week, given the Russian’s impressive form in Beijing the week before where she defeated Flavia Pennetta and Elina Svitolina on route to the quarter-finals. Pavlyuchenkova was rarely troubled in Linz, dropping just 1 set on her way to the title. The only concern for Pavlyuchenkova heading into Moscow is her tiring body, the Russian has played a lot of tennis in the last couple of weeks and admitted that she was struggling towards the end of the week in Linz.
Monica Niculescu’s form during the Asian swing was unspectacular. The Romanian arrives in Moscow on the back to two consecutive losses, including a crushing straight set loss to Sam Stosur in the first round in Beijing. Niculescu will arrive in Moscow fresh after a couple of weeks off, which could be hugely important.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova holds a perfect 2-0 head-to-head record over The Romanian, including a 3-6 6-2 6-4 win in Monterrey in their most recent encounter back in 2013. Niculescu is always a tricky customer to play, however Pavlyuchenkova has the game to punish the Romanian’s weak groundstrokes. The Russian should begin her title defence with a convincing victory, unless she succumbs to injury.