Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had a debut to remember at the Bank of the West Classic held in Stanford as she overturned a 1-3 head-to-head record to get past a tough opening test in Alison Riske, triumphing in two sets after serving a bagel in the process.
Pavlyuchenkova gets through tough first set
Riske fell behind an early break in the opening game as she served two double faults with Pavlyuchenkova exploiting her second serves. However, some inconsistent play from the Russian resulted in an immediate break back from her lower-ranked opponent, leveling the scores at one-game apiece.
After an exchange of service holds which saw both players gradually playing some solid tennis, it was Pavlyuchenkova who almost made the first breakthrough of the match as she earned three break points in the fifth game. Nevertheless, Riske produced some clinical backhands to fend off the opportunities, narrowly holding onto her serve for a 3-2 lead on the scoreboard.
It was the Russian’s turn to face some troubles while serving as she was taken to deuce after making several unforced errors, but she remained solid and returned level with the nervy service hold. The match finally had its first turning point as the higher-ranked player was just too good in her baseline game, saving a game point before a forehand unforced error sealed the next breakthrough for Pavlyuchenkova after 33 minutes of play.
Looking to overturn the 1-3 head-to-head record against the American, Pavlyuchenkova managed to easily consolidate the break and extend her lead to two games, bringing her just one game away from winning the first set. With Riske winning what would be her last game of the day, Pavlyuchenkova eventually served out the set 6-4, halfway from getting through the tough opener.
Pavlyuchenkova serves a merciless bagel
A marathon game on Riske’s serve started the second set and the Russian’s impressive run continued when she prevailed in a battle of powerful groundstrokes to get the formidable lead of a set and a break, looking favorite for the victory. Despite owning game point opportunities once again, the American was unable to convert her opportunities as Pavlyuchenkova came up with some of her peak tennis to earn a second consecutive break of serve, allowing herself to stroll through the second set.
Riske soon ran out of steam after she failed to find her first serves and Pavlyuchenkova took advantage by cruising to yet another game, blasting a return winner to be just a game away from sealing the bagel victory. Falling 0-40 behind while serving for the match, the Russian allowed Riske to earn her first break points of the set as the American looked to mount an improbable comeback. However, Pavlyuchenkova managed to maintain her composure as she produced a clinical serving display to close out the match, serving two consecutive aces to seal the victory.
Match Stats: Pavlyuchenkova on fire throughout the match
Throughout the 72 minute encounter, Pavlyuchenkova blasted an incredible 31 winners past Riske, who was totally outplayed in the match. The American failed to be the aggressor on the court as she only managed to rattle off 13 winners with the same number of unforced errors, and the Russian was still the more solid player on the court.
Surprisingly, Riske was only able to win a mere 55 percent of first service points which was coupled with just five points won behind her second serve, a vast difference as compared to Pavlyuchenkova as the world number 18 lost just nine points behind her powerful first serves but was less effective on her second serve, winning just 46 percent of points off them.
Pavlyuchenkova happy with her win
Speaking about her dominant win over her nemesis, she mentioned in an on-court interview after the match, “The last time we played in Beijing last year and I lost easily, so I was already prepared for a tough match today especially I saw [Alison] playing her first match and she looked really sharp and played really well, especially lately. And yeah, I’m happy with the win.”
She was full of compliments for Riske, mentioning in her press conference, “She is a tough opponent and I thought she was [able to] dictate some of the points and it wasn’t easy to find my rhythm and find the right game and then I seem to find it and played much better and I got a little bit confident and I was happy with the way I finished the match.”
Definitely, Pavlyuchenkova overcame a disappointing first round defeat at the Wimbledon Championships where she was one of the dark horses for the title, falling to qualifier Arina Rodionova in three tough sets after failing to convert an incredible seven match points.
“Yeah I think my serving helped me today especially in the last two games and I was really happy about that. And moving in general, [the courts are] quite fast here and I’m pretty happy with the first match I played,” Pavlyuchenkova stated in her on-court interview, and she would now face home favorite and sixth seed Coco Vandeweghe in the quarterfinals.