Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova managed to create an upset over Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open, triumphing in three sets and improving her head-to-head record against the Slovakian.
Pavlyuchenkova runs away with the first set
Pavlyuchenkova started the match the best way possible, coming into the match firing as the first point of the match already saw her hit a booming forehand. Her efforts had its rewards as she earned two break points within a blink of an eye, but her unforced errors proved to be costly as she allowed Cibulkova to recover from 15-40 down to hold serve eventually, preventing herself from trailing early in the set.
Pavlyuchenkova did not seem to be affected by the loss of those break points as she had a comfortable service hold in her opening service game, looking very solid in her groundstrokes. Cibulkova then had an easy service hold of hers, looking comfortable with the conditions early on in the match. There was an amazing second serve ace by Pavlyuchenkova as she utilized some smart service placements to be able to do so, taking a 30-0 lead in her service game.
However, Cibulkova won the next three points to make it 30-40 and earn her first break point of the match, hoping to make the early breakthrough. The Slovakian finally broke serve when Pavlyuchenkova hit a perfect drop shot but failed to make a good follow through as the Russian gave the advantage to Cibulkova, who took the early 3-1 lead.
Nevertheless, Pavlyuchenkova was not willing to lag behind in the scoreline as she broke straight back with the help of several unforced errors made by the Slovakian, returning level on serve once more. There was yet another second serve ace by Pavlyuchenkova once again, but this time it was a similar story as compared to the fourth game as Cibulkova stormed back to earn a break point opportunity, but failed to convert after the Russian managed to hold her nerves to instead come back and earn a game point.
An ace at the most crucial moment of the game when the score was at deuce played a major part in Pavlyuchenkova securing the tough service hold, with the scores at 3-3 and nothing to separate both players. Two consecutive excellent backhand winners helped the Russian to earn two break points in the following game, having the chance to take the lead in the match for the first time.
Another powerful backhand winner on break point allowed Pavlyuchenkova to make the breakthrough, breaking serve to take a 4-3 lead. Some really good body serves and solid groundstrokes then allowed the Russian to consolidate the break of serve, placing herself in an advantageous position to close out the first set since she was just a game away from winning it.
Cibulkova then showed everyone her own masterclass when she held her serve to love with some excellent shots, staying in the match for at least one more game as Pavlyuchenkova had the golden opportunity to serve out the first set. Serving with great precision and being able to move Cibulkova from left to right on the court, Pavlyuchenkova relied on her groundstrokes to seal the first set 6-4 after 46 minutes of high-quality tennis played by both, with the Russian coming from 1-3 down only to win five of the next six games to be halfway from the victory.
Pavlyuchenkova loses lead; falters at most crucial moment
Pavlyuchenkova had a fast start to the second set as she quickly earned three break points in the opening game of the set, and converted her third break point as she took the advantage and earned an early 1-0 lead in the set, coupled with an overall lead of a set and a break. Nevertheless, Cibulkova got back on serve as soon as possible after she took advantage of a sloppy service game by Pavlyuchenkova, keeping the second set wide open again.
The backhands of the Russian cannot seem to take a break as they played a huge role once again, helping Pavlyuchenkova to earn two break points to have a chance to regain the lead. Cibulkova then held her nerves and displayed her best tennis to have the tough hold of serve, saving two break points to earn a 2-1 lead and thus preventing Pavlyuchenkova from taking the advantage once more. Despite a lengthy medical time-out for Cibulkova, it did not seem to affect Pavlyuchenkova’s much as the Russian comfortably held her serve to make the score 2-2.
It looked like another break of serve was incoming as Pavlyuchenkova went up 0-30 in the next game, having a good chance to regain the lead that she lost in the opening stages of the set. However, Cibulkova managed to outhit the Russian and rattle off four straight points to narrowly hold onto her service game. The string of comfortable service holds for Pavlyuchenkova continued as she managed to use the power of her serves as the fundamental base for every rally where she would try to use her offense and overpower her opponent.
There was finally a break point opportunity earned by Cibulkova after she saved two game points, and she capitalized on it as she ran out to a 5-3 lead all of a sudden despite looking down-and-out in Pavlyuchenkova’s service games before this breakthrough. The Slovakian then comfortably served out the second set to level the match at one set all after 1 hour and 33 minutes, sending the match into a deciding set despite being down a set and a break.
Pavlyuchenkova strolls to victory
Pavlyuchenkova started the final set with an encouraging hold of service, holding her serve to 30 to stop the rout of losing three straight games. The momentum seemed to have shifted to the Russian as she broke serve comfortably in the next game, taking the advantage and an early lead of two games.
Nothing was able to stop Pavlyuchenkova as now it was her forehand who was doing the job for her, able to go against the solid groundstrokes of Cibulkova and therefore consolidating the break of serve with an easy service hold, extending her lead to 3-0 and edged closer to the victory. A tough hold of service from 15-30 down managed to get Cibulkova onto the scoreboard in the final set, and also allowed her to lessen the deficit by one game and not fall behind further.
Pavlyuchenkova did not let this affect her momentum as she held yet another comfortable service game, extending her lead to 4-1 and thus placing her just two games away from the huge victory. Playing high-quality tennis, Pavlyuchenkova’s world-class offensive shots were too much to handle as Cibulkova ran out of steam and was broken easily to gift the Russian yet another service break and the chance to serve out the match.
Dealing with her own nerves and the pressure while serving for the match, Pavlyuchenkova was broken by Cibulkova for the Slovakian to stay in the match for at least one more game and lessen the deficit. Nevertheless, booming returns were produced from Pavlyuchenkova in the following game as the Russian hit two consecutive strong return winners to seal the upset in 2 hours and 8 minutes, setting up a blockbuster meeting with Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals, the first time Pavlyuchenkova has reached that stage since her debut appearance in 2009 when she stormed all the way to the semifinals.