2016 winner Angelique Kerber has a great opportunity to try add to her slam haul next week, beginning with a fourth round match against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The German is the only former champion left in the draw although there are a host of slam winners in general still involved.
Pavlyuchenkova was one of the most prolific juniors on the tour back in the late 00s but has never got close to similar successes when it came to making the step up. She does have quarter final runs at all four slams and will hope to make it three out of the last four times for her in Melbourne. The Russian can play some great attacking tennis but has never managed to keep it together enough to win the big titles. Pavluchenkova showed her better side in round three, holding her nerve in two tiebreaks to shock the second seed Karolina Pliskova. “My goal was to return well today, she is the ace queen on tour.” she said. “I thought that if I took at least one or two games on her serve, it would be amazing and I also held my serve which helps. It was a good match for me today.”
Kerber is far from the player who won slams in the past but that winning mentality and experience may prove vital for her if she wins another match or two. For a player who retired down a set and a break in Adelaide, there will likely have been little expectation for something from the German this fortnight. However, she has dealt with two weaker opponents and a volatile Camila Giorgi to get to this stage. She needed three sets against the Italian, fighting through for a 6-2 6-7 6-3 win. “It was not always an easy match, because you never know with her. You have to play until the last point — even you are up or down, you have to play until the last point, because she’s there. She’s fighting, as well, and playing really hard and deep.”
Kerber and Pavlyuchenkova have enjoyed a series of matches over the years with the Russian edging the head to head at 7-6 following her Osaka win late last year. This one will be just their second at a slam though, with Kerber winning at Wimbledon previously. If Pavlyuchenkova can remain patient against a tough defender, she could well pick up the win here and finally make a breakthrough to a grand slam semi final.
Prediction – Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets