The WTA Tour continues its Asian swing in week 38 with the million-dollar Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
This Premier level event is played on a quickish Decoturf outdoor hard court and the ball tends to keep quite low here at this low bouncing venue.
Petra Kvitova won here last year, but she isn’t defending her title this time around, however last year’s finalist Angelique Kerber is playing, along with the likes of Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and Sara Errani.
And the draw does look very much in favour of Wozniacki, with the US Open finalist having avoided most of the dangerous opponents and been drawn with Errani, Carla Suarez Navarro and Jankovic.
Monday’s play features the remainder of the qualifying matches and four first round matches, starting at around 04:30 UK time.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Garbiñe Muguruza
This match will begin at around 08:00 UK time and it’s the second meeting between these two powerful players.
Pavs has had a typically up and down season and one that has seen just one quarter final appearance since winning the title indoors in Paris way back in week five.
That sole last eight showing came by way of a couple of pretty poor opponents in Washington on hard and she was beaten by a good display from Nicole Gibbs in the US Open in her last tournament.
She does play pretty well in Asia though as a rule and she made the final in this corresponding week last year in Seoul – losing a tight three setter to Aga Radwanska.
The Russian will be looking to defend those ranking points and at a shade of odds-against she could prove a bit of value against Muguruza, who is by and large overrated by the layers these days.
Muguruza is yet to win a match on the WTA Tour in Asia in three tries, losing tight deciders in Pattaya, Shenzen and Seoul in her previous trips to the continent.
A first round loss to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni as a 1.2 favourite in the US Open won’t have done much for Garbiné’s confidence and I’d class Pavs as slight value here at 2.08.
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova vs Elina Svitolina
This 07:00 UK time start is another of today’s tight-looking clashes and Svitolina, who has made a great start to her career in terms of results in Asia, looks like a decent choice here.
The talented Ukrainian has had a bit of a blip lately since winning Baku and making the last eight in Cincy, but that’s to be expected, and two first round losses won’t faze here.
Both players withdrew from Hong Kong last week and it was no real surprise that BZS didn’t show up, given her questionable fitness record over the years, and I would expect that Zahlavova Strycova needed a bit of a break.
The Czech has played a fair bit of tennis since the French Open and her 9-13 record in Asia doesn’t inspire me to want to back her at odds-on here.
Svitolina won the only prior encounter between the two on slower outdoor hard in Miami this spring and she was a 1.55 favourite that day, so at today’s price of 2.16 she looks the value here on a quicker surface that may not benefit her opponent’s all-court game.
Back Pavlyuchenkova to beat Muguruza at 2.08
Back Svitolina to beat Zahlavova Strycova at 2.16