Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova gave Russia the perfect start into their World Group II play-offs tie against the dangerous Latvia after ousting the higher-ranked and world number 15 Anastasija Sevastova in three thrilling sets, prevailing with a tight 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 scoreline after just 110 minutes.
Hitting 26 winners to just 17 unforced errors, Pavlyuchenkova looked highly impressive and triumphed in this high-quality match which also saw Sevastova throwing in a stunning 31 winners and 16 unforced errors although her forced error count was significantly higher.
The day concluded with the tie being evenly-matched up at 1-1, after Ekaterina Makarova fell to Jelena Ostapenko in another tight match which followed. Pavlyuchenkova will now face the fifth-ranked Ostapenko tomorrow while Sevastova looks to grab her first-ever win over Makarova.
Pavlyuchenkova edges through the tight opening set
It was never a match for the weak after the tension was felt in the opening moments of the tie, with the first few games being extended to deuce while it took a marathon 20 minutes to just complete three of such lengthy games. An excellent drop shot from Sevastova saw the away team taking the lead although it was a short celebration as Pavlyuchenkova produced some solid baseline work to break straight back and get on board with a fantastic backhand winner.
A stunning forehand down-the-line winner for the Russian helped her earn her second consecutive game before a third followed, with errors off the backhand wing of Sevastova proving to be costly. The Latvian was unable to maintain her high level of play and Pavlyuchenkova was having the upper hand in the early stages.
Things were less complicated and the servers were dominating the proceedings, but Sevastova attempted to dig for loopholes hoping for a breakthrough though she was unsuccessful. Another wild backhand mishit from the Latvian ultimately gifted the first set 6-3 to Pavlyuchenkova, who was just a set away from putting her nation in the driving seat.
Sevastova mounts a mouth-watering fightback
After a tricky opening service game to start the second set with, it was all one-way traffic for Sevastova as she finally managed to capture the rhythm and everything in her game started to flow together. Moving her opponent all around the court gave her the time to perfectly construct her shots, and this allowed her to take a commanding 3-0 lead in a blink of an eye.
Pavlyuchenkova found herself in some deep trouble, facing multiple break points in the fourth game which would put her a double-break down. Putting up a tough fight, the Russian impressively produced her A game whenever it mattered, lessening the deficit to just two games.
However, it seemed to be too late, as Sevastova started steamrolling her way through the set and soon stormed to a formidable 5-1 lead. Errors were leaking from Pavlyuchenkova’s game and nothing seemed to work, though she was able to grab back a consolation break in the seventh game. Nonetheless, the Latvian sealed the second set 6-2 after just an hour and 15 minutes, looking to earn her first win over the Russia in six attempts.
Lone break secures victory for Pavlyuchenkova
Surprisingly, both players looked invincible on their serves with the returners winning just a mere nine points in a combined effort. Furthermore, Pavlyuchenkova was flawless, conceding just three points on her serve as she fought off the incoming surge of Sevastova without facing much problems in the decider.
The match-changing game saw Pavlyuchenkova send in some vicious returns alongside some clinical baseline work, exposing the vulnerability of Sevastova’s decent serves as the Russian sealed the fantastic victory after an hour and 50 minutes.