Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R1 Preview
?? (4) Belinda Bencic vs. ?? Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
The fourth seeded Belinda Bencic begins her 2020 Dubai campaign on Tuesday with a tough opening round match-up against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Bencic, the defending champion in Dubai, has dominated this match-up in the past, but it is Pavlyuchenkova who enters this match with the better form having reached the Australian Open quarter-finals just a few weeks ago.
Belinda Bencic has made an average start to her 2020 campaign but enters Dubai at a career high ranking of 4 in the world. Bencic arrives in Dubai on the back of a disappointing second round loss to Maria Sakkari at the quarter-final stage in St. Petersburg. Bencic has a modest 5-4 win/loss record in 2020 and is under pressure this week as the defending champion.
Pavlyuchenkova has made a strong start to the 2020 season thanks to reaching the final 8 at the Australian Open for the second year in a row. In 2019 Pavlyuchenkova was unable to build on her strong start to the year, the Russian will be hoping to avoid a similar fate in 2020, starting with a good run in Dubai.
Bencic holds a commanding 5-1 head-to-head record over Pavlyuchenkova. Bencic has won the last 4 matches between the pair, including a 3-6 6-1 6-1 victory in the Moscow final last year. Interestingly it was Pavlyuchenkova who won their only previous match on an outdoor hard court, a 6-2 6-4 win in Washington back in 2015.
I’m going to side with Pavlyuchenkova here. Bencic has consistently played average tennis in 2020 and seems to be lacking confidence at the moment. Conversely, Pavlyuchenkova enters this match rested after a great run in Melbourne. The pressure is on Bencic here given her strong record over Pavlyuchenkova and given she is the defending champion this week. The scene is set for Pavlyuchenkova to overpower Bencic.