TORAY PAN PACIFIC OPEN: We follow the WTA Tour all the way to Japan this week for the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, picking up the tournament at the semi-final stage and taking a closer look at the final four.
Veronika Kudermetova v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
The first semi-final is an all-Russian matchup between Veronika Kudermetova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, with the former bringing immeasurable confidence into this one off the back of beating world number two Iga Swiatek in the last round.
Pavlyuchenkova is the more experienced player with 12 career titles to Kudermetova’s one, but the 32-yead-old is ranked 86th in the world whilst Kudermetova, six years her junior, is ranked 19th and has broken the top 10 at various points in her career.
Kudermetova heads into this semi-final as the favourite at 1.74, but we see Pavlyuchenkova’s odds of 2.03 offering more value. The world number 19’s last match lasted 2 hours and 21 minutes and she had to give everything to get past Swiatek. Pavlyuchenkova has over 50 minutes less than that in her quarter-final matchup and will be the fresher of the two heading into this, so should this tight matchup go to a third set, we can see Pavlyuchenkova progressing to the final.
Maria Sakkari v Jessica Pegula
This matchup is the one to watch of the two semi-finals as it will be a true top-level battle between two players in the world’s top six.
American Jessica Pegula boasts the higher ranking of the two as she currently holds fourth spot in the rankings, whilst Maria Sakkari lingers two places behind. Neither had particularly testing quarter finals matches, with Pegula only giving up one game in her match and Sakkari recording a convincing 6-2 6-2 scoreline.
These two have played each other seven times on hardcourt and there has been little to choose between them, but Sakkari just takes the upper hand in winning four of those matches. Despite this, we feel that Pegula is in the better form as of this moment and she can really put her foot down here to level the scores between these two.
With Sakkari v Pegula being the key matchup in the semi-finals, that looks like the game that will produce the eventual winner of the Toray Pan Pacific Open.
Kudermetova and Pavlyuchenkova will have other ideas, but with neither ranking inside the top 15, it will be tough for them to hold their own in the final against two of the highest-ranking players in the world.
The case for the defence lies with Kudermetova’s victory over the number one seed Iga Swiatek, so she has proven that she can compete with and beat the best. She is certainly the A-side of the first semi-final.
Overall, we believe that this is Jessica Pegula’s tournament to lose. She is the highest ranked player left in the tournament and has looked in convincing nick en-route to her semi-final, and we anticipate she will be fresh and ready to put in two big performances on her way to lifting the trophy.