Russia's 24th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was competing in the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time in her career. The 25-year-old opened proceedings in the Rod Laver Arena against compatriot and two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. Pavlyuchenkova overpowered her compatriot, 6-3, 6-3 in just one hour and eight minutes to reach her first Australian Open quarterfinal, and completing the set of reaching the quarterfinals at all four Slams.
Pavlyuchenkova, a former world number 13 defeated Kuznetsova in Sydney last week, and the 24th seed now trails 5-3 in their head-to-head meetings.
Pavlyuchenkova cruises in the first set
Kuznetsova won the coin toss and elected to receive. It proved to be a poor decision from the eighth seed as Pavlyuchenkova held serve easily to get on the scoreboard. In the following game, the 31-year-old started the game with a double fault, followed by two forehand unforced errors, falling 0-40 quickly. A tame forehand unforced error in the net, handed Pavlyuchenkova the early break to lead 2-0.
The younger Russian consolidated the break to love, leading 3-0. Kuznetsova continued to fall flat, quickly going 15-30 down with unforced errors. However, she would win the next three points with a forehand winner in a five-shot rally, moving Pavlyuchenkova around the court, and two errors, allowed Kuznetsova to hold serve for the first time in the match.
Pavlyuchenkova came out on top in baseline rallies, and she held serve easily once again leading 4-1 with an ace down the T. In the sixth game of the match, the elder Russian won the first point of the game by virtue of a backhand unforced error wide. The 24th seed continued her dominance in baseline rallies, and a forehand unforced error, gave the 24th seed, a 15-40 lead as she was looking for a double break cushion. Kuznetsova would save the break points with a backhand unforced error, and come out on top in a seven-shot rally with a forehand volley. However, Pavlyuchenkova struggled to continue with her serve, serving a double fault and a forehand winner out wide, gave Pavlyuchenkova the double break at 5-1.
The 25-year-old struggled to serve for the opening set, starting the game at 0-15 down with a forehand unforced error out wide in a baseline rally. She would come out on top in the next point with a forehand crosscourt winner down the line. However, she would lose the next two points, handing Kuznetsova, two break points to get one of the breaks back. Strong forehands from the three-time quarterfinalist drew the error from Pavlyuchenkova to get one of the breaks back but trailed 5-2.
Kuznetsova applied more pressure on Pavlyuchenkova by holding to serve, closing the deficit at 5-3. In the ninth game, the 24th seed raced out to a 40-0 lead, however, a backhand unforced error and a double fault meant that she had one set point left. She would clinch it at the first time of asking with a sweet backhand winner down the line in 31 minutes.
Pavlyuchenkova completes her set of reaching all four Grand Slam quarterfinals
Kuznetsova started the second set poorly, getting broken immediately with Pavlyuchenkova taking her second break point chance with a forehand winner on the stretch, and backhand return winner down the line.
Pavlyuchenkova's good serving continued, as she consolidated the break leading 2-0 in the second set. It was important for Kuznetsova to hold serve in the third game but she got off to a poor start, trailing 0-15 with a backhand unforced error in the net. However, a couple of backhand errors and a volley winner handed the eighth-seeded Russian two game points. On the second one, a good serve out wide, drew the error from Pavlyuchenkova's racquet.
Once again, the 24th seed was untroubled on her serve ending her lead in the match to 3-1. However, Kuznetsova was still in touch as she held serve to love but trailed her compatriot 3-2. Momentarily, it seemed as though the pendulum was swinging as Kuznetsova broke back with unforced errors flowing from Pavlyuchenkova's racquet. Furthermore, the former world number 13 didn't let that bother her as she immediately regained her break advantage to lead 4-3.
The former world number two was lethargic after the lengthy battle with Jelena Jankovic that lasted over three-and-a-half hours in the previous round. Pavlyuchenkova trailed in the eighth game of the second set at 0-15 with a backhand unforced error, furthermore, Kuznetsova's forehand continued to break down with three consecutive unforced errors, and the 25-year-old Russian consolidated the break with good serve out to lead 5-3, and a game away from the quarterfinals.
Kuznetsova's forehand continued to spring more unforced errors as she trailed at 0-15, the 31-year-old would win the next two consecutive points with an 11-shot rally and a forehand volley winner at the net. The eighth seed would have a game point but a backhand unforced error got the game to deuce. However, as the game went on, Kuznetsova had the advantage for the second time with a second serve ace. However, a forehand winner down the line and good return out wide would hand Pavlyuchenkova her second match point. The younger Russian didn't hesitate and took the match point by virtue of Kuznetsova's forehand unforced error in the net to cause the slight upset, 6-3, 6-3 in an hour and eight minutes to reach her first Australian Open quarterfinal.
Pavlyuchenkova's serving was key to her victory over her compatriot. The 24th seed got 66 percent of her first serves in and won 81 percent of the points on it. Furthermore, she would produce 21 winners and committed 21 unforced errors. In contrast, Kuznetsova only produced 14 winners and 19 unforced errors. The 31-year-old was fatigued from her previous match with Jankovic in the third round. Nevertheless, it as a good victory for Pavlyuchenkova who played sublime tennis.
The quarterfinals await
Pavlyuchenkova will be competing in her fourth Grand Slam quarterfinal having reached the quarterfinals at the French Open and US Open in 2011 and Wimbledon last year losing to Francesca Schiavone at the former and to Serena Williams at the last two. She will play 13th seed Venus Williams or German qualifier Mona Barthel for a spot in the semifinals on Tuesday.