In May 2013, one of the women’s singles quarterfinal matches, in the Portugal Open, was played between two Russians. The tournament was an ATP World Series event, which preceded the French Open last year. Since the top seed, Marion Bartoli and the No. 2 seed Dominika Cibulkova, had already fallen in their first round matches, Portugal Open offered an opportunity to the remaining women players to improve their world rankings. The two Russians, who faced each other in the QF were; Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina. Their match went to the wire and they fought like crazy, in spite of being good off-court friends. The match was so tight that fortunes kept fluctuating from one side to another. In the end, however, Pavlyuchenkova’s tenacity paid off, as her better service and court skills were too good for Vesnina. Pavlyuchenkova’s 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 victory had coincided with former world no. 1 Martina Hingis joining as her coach in April 2013. After the match, Pavlyuchenkova said that coaching with Martina had brought in tremendous improvement in her game. Pavlyuchenkova’s semifinal opponent was Switzerland’s Romina Oprandi, whom she beat in three sets. She emerged as the women’s singles champion in the tournament, after beating Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 7-5, 6-2 in the final. Although the coaching stint of Pavlyuchenkova with Hingis did not last long, the Russian girl learnt some vital lessons. Last year, Pavlyuchenkova also reached the final of KDB Korea Open in September 2013, where she finished runner-up to Agnieszka Radawanska of Poland, after a closely contested match, before losing 7-6, 3-6, 4-6.
Two days ago, Pavlyuchenkova won another title in Paris. Pavlyuchenkova’s progress in the GDF SUEZ Indoor Open tournament at Paris has been amazing. She displayed her potential by reaching the final after beating two higher ranked players. In the quarterfinal, she beat world no.9 Angelique Kerber of Germany 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 and in the semifinal she stunned the top seed Maria Sharapova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, in a match full of thrills. Until the semifinal with Pavlyuchenkova, Sharapova had not dropped a single set and she was expected to beat her compatriot after easily winning the first set 6-4. But Pavlyuchenkova raised her game several notches, after the first set. She broke Sharapova in the opening game of the second set and ran away to equal the score 1-1. The two Russians started by trading breaks in the third set before Sharapova committed a series of errors to allow Pavlyuchenkova to rule the proceedings.
In the final, Pavlyuchenkova met the 3rd seed Italian Sara Errani, for whom this was the second successive final of the WTA event. The first set was full of unforced errors by both players. Though, Pavlyuchenkova had taken an early 3-1 lead, Errani benefitted from the erratic Pavlyuchenkova. The Russian couldn’t control her shots and Errani took the first set 6-3, winnings five games in a row. In the second set, Errani continued with the tempo, she had built in the first set. At one point, the Russian faced a double break, but somehow regained composure and found her rhythm. She broke the Italian’s service to level 2-2. With the power returning to her game, Pavlyuchenkova won 4 straight games to take the second set 6-2. In the third set, however, Errani also pulled herself back, stopped making unforced errors, and raced to a 3-1 lead. But Pavlyuchenkova wouldn’t give up. She too found her shots back and forced Errani into committing errors. The score became level at 3-3. Pavlyuchenkova continued with her renewed form and steamrolled Errani 6-3 in the decider. This was Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s biggest victory of her career. In all, Pavlyuchenkova hit 48 winners and committed 33 unforced errors. In comparison, Errani could only manage 18 winners but she also committed 16 unforced errors. In the Paris tournament, Pavlyuchenkova needed three sets in all her matches, which is a testimony to the Russian’s tremendous tenacity.
Lot of people believe that Pavlyuchenkova has greatly improved her game after the short coaching and training sessions with Hingis, months ago. Hingis might have continued but Pavlyuchenkova found the preparatory sessions planned by Hingis were too tough to her liking.