With the noticeable shift in the balance of power in the WTA rankings, the early stages of tournaments such as the Toray Pan Pacific Open are filled with compelling matches that would generally be reserved for the later stages of the events. An example of this is the upcoming berth between Ana Ivanovic and Victoria Azarenka, who will now meet in the second round of a tournament for just the second time in their seven previous meetings. Azarenka leads the head-to-head series 5-2, including the wins in their last four consecutive meetings on the tour.
Following what was a remarkable summer on the tour, Serbian star Ana Ivanovic suffered a staggering loss to Karolina Pliskova, who beat her in straight sets 7-5, 6-4 in the first match on Louis Armstrong Stadium. Seeded eighth at the event, Ivanovic only managed to reach the second round of the US Open, which was a sore disappointment considering her remarkable resurgence in 2014.
“It’s very disappointing,” Ivanovic stated following her loss at Flushing Meadows. “It’s never easy, you know, to finish, and especially this early. I was really, you know, hoping I can make a good run and push. But, you know, I’m definitely going to assess what went wrong and what I can work on. You know, still, I thought I had pretty good summer.”
Following a decent run at the US Open, Victoria Azarenka arrived in Tokyo ranked outside the Top 20 for the first time in years. While many expected her to dominate her opening match against Kimiko Date-Krumm, she needed three sets to edge her veteran opponent, 3-6, 6-0, 6-2.
“She’s a very tricky player and playing in Japan is definitely very special for her,” Azarenka said. “From my end, I didn’t really play that well in the first set and couldn’t really find my rhythm. She’s the type of player that doesn’t really give you any rhythm, so it was a little bit challenging for me.
“I just tried to stay positive, to fight back and to find a way to turn the match around.”
This upcoming encounter marks the eighth time that Ivanovic and Azarenka will meet on the tour and could serve as the Serb’s biggest chance in recent memory to snap her losing streak to the former world No. 1. Azarenka continues to struggle to find her form, while Ivanovic succeeded in several staggering upsets so far this season.
Prediction: Ana Ivanovic in Three Sets