WTA Tennis: Rome
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova- Serena Williams
As most of you know, I only really cover the Grand Slam events on tennis and we have not got involved since the Australian Open, but I do occasionally have a warm up match/event or two, Eastborne/Queens before Wimbledon for example and I might dip into a couple of matches leading into Roland Garros and whilst I have no desire to get overly involved in terms of stakes, it will get me/us into the swing of things. By the way, the French Open starts on Sunday week, May 24th.
I find Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova very frustrating, she has a lot of ability, but has shown it all too rarely and keeps tempting tennis watchers by giving us a glimpse, hinting at a major breakthrough and then not quite going through with it, we spoke about her ability at RG last year ......
We know she loves Paris and feels very commfortable there and is definitely someone we can look to provide an upset, especially if she is drawn against a bigger name player in the first week. She had a tough early /mid summer after the last clay court season , but did take Sharapova very close in Cincinnati, then had a win over Ivanovic, before taking the title in Moscow, that was a low key event, but a win is a win ! This year started slowly, but we have seen signs recently that she is running into form and AP played really well in Madrid last week, wiping the floor with Shuai Peng, who had given her big problems early season , for the loss of only three games, winning a battle with Sara Errani, which is never easy, before losing to eventual champion and clubgowi favourite Petra Kvitova, that looked quite an easy win on paper, but AP played a tough second set, especially the big points, after losing the first comfortably and if she can start "hanging in there" a little more, the wins will increase. She beat Sam Stosur in straight sets here in R1 , served well and again, played the really important points well.
Of course, she is going to have to up her game to win today and I don't really expect her to, but it is not impossible, however, what I would like to see is her win a few points against the serve, get a few cheap service points of her own and continue to up her game on the big points. Serena got her butt kicked by Kvitova in the Madrid final, but will be pleased with her overall performance on return to clay, although the altitude in Madrid and surface are very diffent front anything else she will face in the next month. She did play two Fed Cup singles matches before that, actually in Italy and won both , but dropped eight games to Camila Giorgi and was taken all the way by Sara Errani. She should win today, but meeting someone so comfortable on the surface and in good form in her first WTA start of the season on "real" clay will not be easy and I will suggest .........Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova +6.5 games 1.99 Pinnacle Sports/ Sportmarket Pro.
Well Nastia has been an underachiever so far in her career. She has a lot of pure firepower - forehand down the line is amazing when she's on but too rarely as you said she shows what she's capable of. I agree with this pick. Nastia has to stay focused throughout the whole match unless she'll be facing a scoreline like 6-2, 6-1 in the end. Her first serve is very important, serving out-wide from the deuce court is an important serve, getting one-two punch combos from the T-line against a returner like Williams also. Every cheap point counts surely. As the match goes on Williams will probably just overpower Nastia from backhand side and frustrate her to make her hit a lot of cheap unforced errors from forehand side.