2017 Season Review: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova shines with three WTA titles despite her inconsistency

Reaching four WTA finals was an incredible feat for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova as the Russian managed to finish the year inside the top 20 of the rankings for the first time since 2011.

2017 Season Review: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova shines with three WTA titles despite her inconsistency
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova poses along with her title in Hong Kong | Photo: Hong Kong Tennis Open

It was a relatively successful 2017 for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova as the Russian put in some solid performances over the year which saw her claim three titles within just 10 months, the most titles she has won in a calendar year throughout her career. With her impressive results, Pavlyuchenkova has returned to the top 20 and also solidified her status as one of the game’s biggest talents, with her incredible net game showing its worth throughout the year as well.

Win-loss record

Pavlyuchenkova owns a 41-24 win-loss record in this year, which is very decent considering this is just the fourth time the Russian had gone over the 40 win mark in a calendar year. She also earned four victories over top 10 players in 2017, including the biggest win of her career against world number one Angelique Kerber in Monterrey. The other wins came against Svetlana Kuznetsova (twice) and Dominika Cibulkova.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in action at the Sydney International | Photo: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images AsiaPac
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in action at the Sydney International | Photo: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images AsiaPac

However, it could be rather disappointing as 16 of her losses came against lower-ranked players, in matches where she was the favorite. Four losses were in the hands of players outside the top 100, reflecting her inconsistency. The average rank of the opponents she lost to is 54.5, while the average rank of the players she beaten is 59. Pavlyuchenkova had also beaten 2016’s world number one and two-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber thrice this year, including their last meeting at the WTA Elite Trophy.

Best Performances

The Australian Open was certainly a good one for Pavlyuchenkova as she finally claimed the well-deserved Career Grand Slam at the quarterfinal stage having earned some impressive victories along the way. Defeating compatriots Evgeniya Rodina and Natalia Vikhlyantseva, the Russian followed it up with an incredible win over the in-form Elina Svitolina in three tough sets, setting up a meeting with Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in action at the Australian Open | Photo: Pat Scala/Getty Images AsiaPac
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in action at the Australian Open | Photo: Pat Scala/Getty Images AsiaPac

For the second time in as many weeks, Pavlyuchenkova sealed another win over the world number ten to reach her first ever quarterfinal in Melbourne. There, she put up a spirited performance before falling to eventual finalist Venus Williams. Prior to the first Major of the year, Pavlyuchenkova played some of her best tennis in Sydney, defeating Samantha Stosur and Kuznetsova for another last eight appearance.

The BNP Paribas Open was another great tournament for Pavlyuchenkova, who reached her third quarterfinal of the year. Beating the talented youngster Anett Kontaveit in the opening round, the Russian backed it up with an amazing win over the tricky Barbora Strycova in straight sets. Pavlyuchenkova looked unstoppable when she claimed her first win over Dominika Cibulkova since 2014. Going up against Kuznetsova, whom she was 2-0 against this year, she unexpectedly fell in straight sets in just over an hour as she failed to make a return to the semifinals.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova celebrates winning a point at the BNP Paribas Open | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova celebrates winning a point at the BNP Paribas Open | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America

Pavlyuchenkova then impressively went on a 10-match winning streak in WTA events after claiming back-to-back titles in Monterrey and Rabat. Being the second seed in the South American tournament, the Russian ousted Timea Babos, Caroline Garcia and world number one Kerber on her way to the title, which is her fourth in Monterrey alone. Top-seeded in Rabat did not provide Pavlyuchenkova with more pressure as she came through a tough draw which saw her defeat Ekaterina Makarova, Sara Errani and Francesca Schiavone in her path to a second WTA title in as many weeks.

Substandard results followed but the Asian Swing was impressive from Pavlyuchenkova as she first stormed to the final at the Toray Pan Pacific Open as an unseeded player. Her Tokyo campaign first started with a win over Catherine Bellis, recovering from a set down to triumph before putting up an inspired performance to defeat Wang Qiang.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova hits a backhand at the French Open | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova hits a backhand at the French Open | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America

The quarterfinals proved to be more challenging as the Russian had to recover from a set and a break down to prevail against Barbora Strycova. Her semifinal was definitely a rollercoaster as she lost a 6-0, 5-2 lead only to see her trail 0-3 in the final set before rebounding to grab the incredible win over two-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber, marking her fourth consecutive three-set victory. However, she fell to a determined Caroline Wozniacki in the final.

She did not have to wait long for yet another final, though. The Russian strolled to the final in Hong Kong without losing a set, defeating quality players like Naomi Osaka and Wang Qiang along the way. In an incredible and dramatic Championship match against Daria Gavrilova, Pavlyuchenkova came from a set down to triumph in three sets, with the encounter ending 7-6 in the final set after more than three hours of play, with play ending at 1 am local time with less than 100 spectators due to a typhoon.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in action at the Aegon International | Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images Europe
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in action at the Aegon International | Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images Europe

Low Points

A typical player’s season would definitely feature some rough patches, and Pavlyuchenkova saw inconsistency overwhelm her as the Russian struggled on the courts for several periods of time.

The Russian fell in her opening match of the season against Julia Goerges and suffered a shock first-round exit at the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships to Ons Jabeur, who was then a 171st-ranked qualifier.

Pavlyuchenkova’s disappointing 4-6, 0-6 drubbing by Elise Mertens at the Fed Cup also played a major part in deciding Russia’s fate as they were ultimately kicked back to the World Group II after suffering a surprise 2-3 loss to Belgium. Pavlyuchenkova also shockingly fell in the second round of the French Open to Veronica Cepede Royg despite being a favorite to go deep in the draw.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova celebrates winning a point | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova celebrates winning a point | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

The grass-court season was the most disappointing stretch of the year for Pavlyuchenkova, who amassed a 2-3 win-loss record on the green surface. She was thrashed 1-6, 2-6 by Goerges in the second round of the Mallorca Open before losing to Heather Watson in Eastbourne. Arguably, her most heartbreaking loss this year came in the hands of Arina Rodionova, who earned her first Grand Slam win by upsetting the Russian 9-7 in the final set, taking away Pavlyuchenkova’s golden opportunity to defend her quarterfinal points at the Wimbledon Championships

Early exits during the US Open Series were particularly lackluster for Pavlyuchenkova as she failed to perform at the Bank of the West Classic, Rogers Cup, Western and Southern Open and the US Open. Unable to make any quarterfinals at any of these events meant that a temporary exit from the top 20 ensued, though, she quickly returned to that elite batch with a final in Tokyo.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in action at the US Open | Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images North America
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in action at the US Open | Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images North America

Season Grade: B-

Pavlyuchenkova’s impressive season was marred by a series of disappointing results, undermining all her success this year. Starting the year ranked 27th, the Russian will now end the year in the top 20 with three WTA titles and a Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance.