Svetlana Kuznetsova is back for more on home soil. The Russian, who has traditionally done well at home, got off to a great start at the 2020 St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, with a win over talented youngster Jennifer Brady.
And the win has come in the nick of time as Kuznetsova will need all the confidence that she can muster to take on top seed Belinda Bencic in the next match.
The two women have won a match a piece from their previous hardcourt meetings and will be looking to extend that record in their favour on Wednesday.
As far as Bencic is concerned, she hasn't done too well against big-hitting Russians of late. Her confident-looking run in Melbourne was cut short by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who was able to overpower the Swiss in the heavy conditions.
And while St. Petersburg will definitely be more favourable for Bencic in terms of court conditions, she will be up against a robust crowd in Russia, who will be firmly behind Kuznetsova.
Bencic's last-minute entry into the tournament says a lot about her intent. At a career-high ranking of no. 5, she feels like it is the time to give that extra push and establish herself at the top of the women's game.
And to come up against a someone like Kuznetsova, who has been on the top for long and is not in phase of career where she is playing with unprecedented freedom, the pressure will all be on Bencic's side of the court.
The Swiss will walk in as an overwhelming favourite on paper, but there is little that separates the two women on court. And that's when the composure and character kicks in.
This one is bound to be a tense affair for Bencic, even at such an early stage in the tournament. If Kuznetsova starts off well, it can further mount on Bencic's mind and that's when things begin to unravel quickly for the Swiss.
Prediction: Kuznetsova to win in two tight setsPublished 12 Feb 2020, 14:55 IST