Petra Kvitova has lost to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Brisbane before – can the world no. 7 avoid a repeat of that defeat as she takes on the Russian to begin her WTA Brisbane campaign and 2020 season on Tuesday?
Kvitova vs Pavlyuchenkova is live from Brisbane on Tuesday 7 January at 4pm local/6am GMT
This will be the eleventh meeting between Kvitova and Pavlyuchenkova in their careers, and the third time the two have played at the Brisbane International. Kvitova leads the head-to-head 6-4 (6-3 when only WTA meetings are taken into consideration), but the Czech lost the only match they have played in the past four years, defeated in three sets by Pavlyuchenkova in Wuhan in 2018.
It’s a very tough first-round draw for Kvitova, but then, there aren’t too many good ones in Brisbane, which always has a very good field. The 2020 edition had six of the WTA’s top 10, including Kvitova, although former champion Elina Svitolina has already suffered a shock exit at the hands of Danielle Collins.
Champion in Brisbane in 2011, Kvitova hasn’t been able to win back-to-back matches in two subsequent appearances and has generally fared better in Sydney in recent years, winning the title at the Apia International in 2015 and in 2019 when she beat Ashleigh Barty in a thrilling three-set final. Kvitova would, of course, go on to make the Australian Open final, finishing runner-up to Naomi Osaka, and picked up another title in Stuttgart in April as well as reaching the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
But injury really derailed the rest of what was such a promising season for Kvitova, who finally – with her Australian Open run – seemed to have got over her Grand Slam yips of recent years. The Czech suffered a left hand injury which saw her pull out of the French Open, play just one grass-court event (Wimbledon, where she made the round of 16) and felt like it impacted the rest of the year, although she did make the semifinals of Wuhan and successfully qualify for the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, going 0-3 in the group.
It’s been all upbeat updates from Kvitova during the off-season so hopefully the Czech’s injury issues are behind her and she can concentrate on another great year. The pressure is immediately on, however, with so many points to defend over the next few weeks – and Pavlyuchenkova is not an easy first-round opponent.
One of the WTA’s textbook dangerous floaters, Pavlyuchenkova has never really fulfilled her early promise but the 28-year-old Russian remains a real if inconsistent threat to top seeds; it’s just difficult to predict when she will have one of her spasms of playing well. One of a handful of women to have made the quarterfinals at all four majors, although she has never gone beyond, Pavlyuchenkova has always played well in Australia: She made the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in 2017 and 2019, and was a Brisbane semifinalist in 2011 and runner-up to Serena Williams in 2012.
Whether it’s the conditions or starting her season in a blaze of energy and good intentions, the Australian tennis summer does seem to suit Pavlyuchenkova – and the former world no. 13 did make a strong end to 2019, reaching finals in Osaka and Moscow although she lost those finals to Naomi Osaka and Belinda Bencic respectively.
Although Kvitova leads their overall head-to-head 6-3, it’s a much more even 1-1 in Brisbane meetings – and Pavlyuchenkova, as aforementioned, won their only remotely recent match in three sets in Wuhan in 2018, a tournament where Kvitova is difficult to beat. I don’t think Pavlyuchenkova is intimidated by Kvitova’s power and pace of shot, in fact I think she rather likes it because lengthy rallies will be at a minimum; and the Russian, although her movement has always been an issue, is a tremendous ballstriker happy to go toe-to-toe with the Czech. If Pavlyuchenkova can play a good returning game to force Kvitova back on her heels right from the Czech’s first serve, I think her chances are excellent of upsetting the world no. 7 in the latter’s first match of 2019.