St. Petersburg QF: (1) Belinda Bencic vs (5) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
The pick of the quarter-finals from St. Petersburg on Friday sees the top seeded Belinda Bencic come up against Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. This match could go a long way to deciding who claims the title this week, Bencic and Pavlyuchenkova look like two of the biggest contenders at this stage of the tournament. This promises to be a high quality encounter between two very evenly matched players.
Belinda Bencic is having a great week. The Swiss rising star arrived in St. Petersburg full of confidence after guiding Switzerland to a memorable Fed Cup victory over Germany in Leipzig. Bencic recorded impressive straight set victories over Angelique Kerber and Andrea Petkovic and made it three consecutive victories over German opponents when she defeated Annika Beck 7-6 6-3 in her first match in St. Petersburg. Although Bencic came through her first match of the tournament in straight sets, her level of play wasn’t that convincing. Bencic really struggled to hold serve and will need to improve her level if she is to advance past Pavlyuchenkova on Friday.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is through to the quarter-final stage in St. Petersburg courtesy of victories over Klara Koukalova and Carina Witthoeft. Pavlyuchenkova needed 3 sets to get past Koukalova but produced an improved performance to defeat Witthoeft 6-1 7-5 in the second round. Pavlyuchenkova thrives on indoor hard courts and also plays some of her best tennis in Russia. Pavlyuchenkova has won 21 of her last 22 matches on indoor hard courts at WTA events and will fancy her chances against Bencic in front of her home crowd on Friday.
The head-to-head record between the pair is slipt at 1 win apiece. Pavlyuchenkova comfortably won their most recent clash, the Russian recorded a convincing 6-2 6-4 victory over Bencic in Washington last year. I think this is a good match-up for Pavlyuchenkova and believe she has a good chance of causing an upset on Friday evening. These two are evenly matched but I give the edge to Pavlyuchenkova because of her superior firepower and slightly greater variety.