2020 Australian Open: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova stuns nemesis Karolina Pliskova in thriller
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova celebrates her win | Photo: Jason Heidrich

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2020 Australian Open as she overturned a 0-6 head-to-head deficit against nemesis and world number two Karolina Pliskova, stunning the big-hitting Czech 7-6, 7-6 in a marathon two-hours and 25-minutes encounter. 

Blasting 51 winners to 43 unforced errors and taking command of the baseline with 43 groundstroke winners as compared to just 19 from Pliskova. Surprisingly overpowering her opponent, Pavlyuchenkova may have been crippled with nerves occasionally but she did an exceptional job to rebound and close out the match.

Pliskova’s first serves continued to be a weapon, but they were not enough to beat an on-fire Pavlyuchenkova who dared to take risks and took the balls early. 35 winners to 29 unforced errors saw the Czech playing a decent match, but she could not sustain her high level throughout the entire match. Defending quarterfinal points here in Melbourne, the Russian is under pressure to defend a bulk of points although another fantastic run seems plausible.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will face familiar rival Kerber next | Photo: Quinn Rooney
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will face familiar rival Kerber next | Photo: Quinn Rooney

Pavlyuchenkova snatches the opening set

Pavlyuchenkova started the match with a routine service hold, but Pliskova found herself in some trouble as she was stuck in a marathon 18-minute service game to start the match with. Staving off six break point opportunities, the Czech was struggling with her rhythm at the baseline although her first serves rescued her ultimately. 

The Russian looked like the more proactive player on the court, facing no troubles in her service games and digging out the first breakthrough of the match in the fourth game. Pliskova attempted to make amends for her mistakes by serving consecutive aces from 0-40 down but was unable to save a third break point as Pavlyuchenkova surged towards a 3-1 lead.

Pavlyuchenkova consolidated the break easily, whilst Pliskova had to survive a 15-30 deficit on serve to minimize the deficit and remain in contention for the set. The 30th seed had a point for a 5-2 lead, but served a crucial double-fault and committed a couple of errors to allow Pliskova a way back into the match.

Pliskova finally enjoyed her first routine hold of the match and levelled the scores at 4-4, but Pavlyuchenkova managed to stop the bleeding on her side with a hard-fought service game. It was the Russian’s turn to survive a marathon game as she saved five break points to hold for 6-5, with Pliskova replying with a love service hold to enter a tiebreak. 

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was playing exceptionally well to stun her nemesis in straight sets | Photo: Mark Kolbe
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was playing exceptionally well to stun her nemesis in straight sets | Photo: Mark Kolbe

Consecutive forehand winners saw the second seed claim the mini-break, but Pavlyuchenkova fought back with four points on the trot. Although the momentum seemed to have shifted hands after the Russian served a double-fault at 5-3, Pliskova handed the advantage back to her opponent with several routine errors on her own, ultimately losing the set on a tiebreak after an hour and 15 minutes, the longest set on the women’s side thus far.

Pavlyuchenkova completes the upset

Pliskova was having an off day at the office as she served a double-fault to get broken in the opening game of the second set, adding onto her troubles today. The Russian was able to consolidate the break and earn a clear advantage, but Pliskova finally managed to find her first serve in the third game and went straight back into business.

Nonetheless, Pavlyuchenkova did not look like she was giving up her lead as she regained composure after serving a double-fault to start the fourth game. Four quick winners followed as she survived a nervy stage of the match to hold for a 3-1 lead. Pliskova found herself in deep trouble once again but erased a 0-30 deficit to stay in the match.

Karolina Pliskova fought back in both sets, even holding set points in the second set. | Photo: Clive Brunskill
Karolina Pliskova fought back in both sets, even holding set points in the second set. | Photo: Clive Brunskill

An uncharacteristic poor service game saw Pavlyuchenkova being broken and Pliskova came out of nowhere to rattle off three straight games, grabbing the lead for the first time in the match. The Russian was under pressure since then, having to come from 0-30 down while serving at 4-5.

It was another lengthy 15-minute service game for Pliskova and this time she survived the thriller after saving four break points in the process with her first serves proving too much for Pavlyuchenkova on the crucial points. The Russian was forced to serve to stay in the set, and bravely saved two set points with two big forehand winners and overridden her double-faults with a couple of aces to bring the match into another tiebreak.

This time, Pavlyuchenkova controlled the tiebreak from start to finish, collecting the 33rd top-10 win of her career and entering the fourth round for the second consecutive year, looking to defend her quarterfinal points where she will face Angelique Kerber next.

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