The quarterfinals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open featured an improbable comeback when Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova came from a set and a break down to outlast Barbora Strycova in an all-unseeded battle to earn a place in the semifinals, with the help of a rain delay which could not have come at a more crucial part of the match.
Under the roof of the Ariake Stadium, Pavlyuchenkova won 11 of the 13 games played as she came from 5-7, 1-3, 15-30 down to clinch the win in three sets, setting up a meeting with former world number one Angelique Kerber, who is on an amazing run at Tokyo having played what could be her best tennis of the year having just defeated the fourth-ranked Karolina Pliskova in a rematch of their 2016 US Open final.
Strycova takes the tight first set 7-5
Coming into this match with several good wins over quality players, Pavlyuchenkova was full of confidence in the opening game, opening the match with a solid service hold despite her early jitters. Nonetheless, Strycova was also playing some of her best tennis after earning her first Top 10 win of the year against Johanna Konta yesterday and carried her momentum into this encounter. We did not have to wait long for the first break of the match as the Czech came from 30-0 down to take the early lead with the Russian committing a handful of unforced errors.
However, Strycova was unable to hold onto her lead as she threw in a double fault on Pavlyuchenkova’s first break point opportunity and leveled the scores once again. From then onwards, both players seemed very solid on their serves and did not look like they were going to slip up as six consecutive holds followed.
Pavlyuchenkova fended off two break points in the ninth game, prevailing in a pivotal marathon game which allowed her to earn a 5-4 lead. Nonetheless, Strycova was putting in some unbelievable defensive work and looked full of confidence, breaking serve at 5-5 to earn the golden opportunity to serve out the set. Not disappointing her fans, she put in a strong second serve on set point to claim the first set 7-5 after 59 minutes of play.
Strycova earns big lead but fails to capitalize
That was the first set Strycova had won against the Russian in her career, and it seemed to have boosted her confidence which allowed her to play freely without pressure. With the help of the momentum, the Czech clinched the break of serve in the opening game of the second set, leading by a set and a break. She looked very comfortable on the courts but rain soon interrupted play in the fourth game, forcing play to be suspended momentarily.
The roof was then closed for the remainder of the match, with Strycova easily holding serve in the first game upon resumption. Pavlyuchenkova took a little while to settle in, and she certainly lived up to her reputation of excelling in indoor conditions as she stormed back to get back level despite being 1-3 15-30 down at a point of time.
The faster surface proved to be effective for the aggressive Russian, breaking down the stubborn Strycova defense and seeing her gain the rhythm in her baseline game. Claiming five straight games, Pavlyuchenkova unexpectedly took the second set 6-3 after 41 minutes of play with the rain delay proving to be pivotal in this match.
Pavlyuchenkova strolls to win the final set
With Pavlyuchenkova having all the momentum, Strycova was largely frustrated with her play and was constantly being overpowered. The Czech slowly faded when she trailed by a break in the opening game of the final set as the Russian was playing some confident tennis. Pavlyuchenkova consolidated the break comfortably before Strycova won her first game to stop the rout at seven consecutive games, coming from 15-30 down to do so.
That confidence-boosting service hold looked to have provided Strycova with hope, but Pavlyuchenkova was quick to maintain her composure and snatch yet another break of service, with the win slowly coming within her reach. Eventually, the Russian won four consecutive games from 2-1 up, claiming the win in three sets after two hours and 11 minutes of play as she was just clinical under the roof.