Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has had a successful season thus far amidst the inconsistencies in her performances, re-entering the Top 20 after a disappointing end to 2016. Earning an incredible four Top 10 victories this year, Pavlyuchenkova has affirmed her status as one of the most solid players on tour and proved that she is able to challenge the best of the best.
Pavlyuchenkova owns a 26-14 win-loss record in the first seven months of the year, which is her best performance since 2011. The Russian also managed to clinch seven wins over Top 20 players throughout the seven months, defeating quality opponents like Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dominika Cibulkova.
Pavlyuchenkova became joined the elite batch to complete the Career Grand Slam at the quarterfinal level after reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the first time in her career. Upsetting higher-ranked players along the way, the Russian was playing some peak tennis during that week as she recorded her best performance in Melbourne.
The former world number 13 won her first WTA title of the year at the Monterrey Open, where she amazingly defeated three consecutive seeds to clinch the title in impressive fashion. A statistic worth mentioning is that Pavlyuchenkova has won an unbelievable four titles at the exact same tournament in Monterrey, and the second time in which she defeated Angelique Kerber in the final there. Defeating Timea Babos, Caroline Garcia and the world number one in her path to glory, it was truly an amazing week for the Russian.
Pavlyuchenkova then followed up her title with yet another triumph, this time in Rabat. Defeating former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the final, the Russian clinched her second straight WTA title in as many events after losing just one set in the process.
The Middle East swing was not kind to the Russian as she dealt with early losses in both Doha and Dubai, wasting her golden opportunities to improve on her ranking. Having a favorable draw in Dubai, Pavlyuchenkova blew her chances to carve a deep run as she fell to a shock three-set defeat in the first round.
Pavlyuchenkova also had a very disappointing grass court season this year, posting a 2-3 win-loss record on grass as she also failed to defend her quarterfinal points at the Wimbledon Championships from last year.
Overcoming a disappointing start to the season, Pavlyuchenkova managed to find her best tennis at the Sydney International. Faced with a very tough draw, the Russian still managed to defeat former world number five and US Open champion Samantha Stosur in the opening round before upsetting compatriot and Top 10 player Svetlana Kuznetsova for a place in the quarterfinals.
Surprisingly, Pavlyuchenkova managed to follow up her excellent showing in Sydney with yet another quarterfinal appearance, this time at the Australian Open. There, she defeated her fellow Russians in the opening rounds to set up a meeting with the red-hot Elina Svitolina. The former world number 13 then caused a huge upset, defeating the Ukrainian in three sets before earning her second win over Kuznetsova in as many weeks, progressing to the quarterfinals for the first time in her career.
Other good results include her quarterfinal appearance at the BNP Paribas Open, defeating quality players like Dominika Cibulkova and Barbora Strycova along the way. Facing a tough draw at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia, Pavlyuchenkova also managed to produce some world-class tennis to defeat former Roland Garros finalist Samantha Stosur and the red-hot Anastasija Sevastova.
Despite being able to rattle off some great wins, Pavlyuchenkova was still too inconsistent to make a push for a Top 10 ranking as she suffered some surprising losses to other lower-ranked players. The Russian lost to two players outside the Top 100 in the first three months, losing to Ons Jabeur in the opening round of the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the third round of the Miami Open, falling in three sets on both occasions.
Although she reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, Pavlyuchenkova was unable to follow up her good results at the next two Grand Slams. Having a favorable draw at the French Open, the Russian unexpectedly fell to the surprise package in Veronica Cepede Royg, putting in a lackluster performance. Holding seven match points in her first round match against Arina Rodionova at the Wimbledon Championships, Pavlyuchenkova wasted all of them and lost a huge lead, only to see the Australian triumph in a tough three-setter which ended 9-7 in the final set.
The worst defeat for Pavlyuchenkova this year came against Julia Goerges in the second round of the Mallorca Open, and she was only able to win a mere three games in her loss. Being the top seed and the favorite for the title, the Russian was outclassed from the start to the end, being outpowered on every shot as the German played some peak tennis to triumph in just under one hour of play.
Looking ahead: Perfect opportunity to rise in the rankings
Pavlyuchenkova is currently ranked 18 in the official rankings but she is ranked 13th in the Porsche Race to Singapore leaderboard, hinting that her 2017 has gone better than expected. With her best result from the latter half of 2016 being just three quarterfinal appearances, the Russian only has 453 points to defend through the rest of the year. This provides Pavlyuchenkova with the golden opportunity to rise in the rankings on her favorite surface, the hard courts. The Asian swing and the European indoor hard-court season would allow the Russian to earn some points there, having not performed well last year.
Midseason grade: B-
Although Pavlyuchenkova managed to clinch four Top 10 victories and secure two WTA titles, she was too inconsistent to maintain her high quality of tennis throughout all her tournaments and was thus unable to rise much in the rankings. The factor that has always separated the Russian from a place in the Top 10 is because of her inconsistency and inability to deal with pressure, but if she could remove those problems, she could definitely make a huge impact on the tour in the future.