MONTERREY, México - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova survived a dramatic fightback from Angelique Kerber to win the Monterrey Open on Sunday afternoon, keeping her perfect record at the International-level tournament intact - she is now 15-0 there, winning the event all three times she has played it.
Pavlyuchenkova had won the pair's only previous meeting but it was a tight one - a pair of tie-breaks - and Kerber was also perfect in Monterrey, making it to the final in her very first appearance.
And Kerber looked headed to victory early on, breaking in the opening game before the two went into a holding pattern for the next 13 games, neither of them blinking on serve until Kerber led, 64 22.
But that's when all the wins and all the happy memories lifted Pavlyuchenkova up, and she ran away with nine games in a row, winning the second set and building a hefty 5-0 lead in the third - there was clearly some tension in the air as she lost the next four games and watched on as Kerber cut that lead down to 5-4, but a huge Pavlyuchenkova forehand on match point No.5 ended it all, 46 62 64.
"I was excited to be in the final but I was a little bit negative in the first set, because I was missing a lot, and you can't beat a player like her if you're playing like that," Pavlyuchenkova said. "I was getting upset and angry with myself, and she's so good, she was there every point. I knew I had to change things so I just fought hard and managed to stay calm and find my good game in the second set.
"It was amazing to beat a player like her, a Top 10 player. I beat her the other time we played, but that was in the quarterfinals, and it's even tougher and even more special to do it in a final.
"I left it all on the court and I'm so happy it paid off."
Pavlyuchenkova has won the Monterrey Open all three times she played it - 2010, 2011 and now 2013. She has a total of four WTA titles in her career, the other one coming at Istanbul in 2010.
"It's amazing. I still can't believe it, really," she said. "After my first match this week I said it would be a dream come true to win it three times in a row, and I did, so the dream really did come true.
"I'll probably realize it tomorrow in the plane."
Kerber was impressed with Pavlyuchenkova's play. "Anastasia was playing very well today," the German said. "I started well, but she came back in the second set and was hitting the ball so well. I was just trying to fight as much as I could until the last point, even when I was 5-0 down third set.
"She was just hitting the ball better at the most important moments."
The doubles final took place earlier in the day, with No.1 seeds Timea Babos and Kimiko Date-Krumm beating No.3 seeds Eva Birnerova and Tamarine Tanasugarn for the title, 61 64. It was meaningful for both in different ways: Babos had won her first WTA title here in singles last year, while Date-Krumm had retired in her first singles match of the week six days ago with a back injury but stuck around.
"Of course I'm really happy to win and kind of defend my title, even though it's doubles!" Babos said. "But this is a really special place for me. I'm really happy to share this with Kimiko. In the beginning of the week she was having some problems with her back, but she's so tough and fought through it.
"This wasn't the first time Kimiko and I have played together. We make a really good team."