ROME, Italy – No.12 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova got her Rome campaign off to a grueling start, outlasting Samantha Stosur in a marathon three sets to charge into the second round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-1.
“I know the score shows it was 6-1 in the third, but it doesn’t feel like that at all,” Pavlyuchenkova told press after the two hour and thirty-five minute match. “I think I gave my two hundred percent, I actually don’t have anything left right now, honestly.
“I thought the conditions were tough, I thought the ball was really heavy and it was tough to be aggressive. She played extremely well and aggressive, so I’m really happy I was still able to win.”
Stosur and Pavlyuchenkova squared off under the shadows of the majestic statues at Court Pietrangeli, also facing the heavy conditions and stifling heat in Rome. Though the conditions seemed to favor Stosur’s equally heavy game, it was the Russian who got off to an early break.
Pavlyuchenkova’s strong serving bailed her out of trouble on more than one occasion – she hit 10 aces in total and won 68% of points behind her first serve during the match – and she dodged a Stosur break opportunity to take the opening set.
Things got tricky early on as Stosur finally got a break and charged ahead to a 3-1 lead, but the Russian broke straight back with a couple of smart dropshots to put them on level terms. The pressure mounted again at 6-5, with Pavlyuchenkova falling behind in her service game to give Stosur two set points, but she found her first serves right on time and sent the encounter into a tiebreak.
The pair were deadlocked for much of the decider, trading blows as Stosur kept her shots low and heavy. The Australian pulled away in the end and reeled off three points in a row to force a third set.
Pavlyuchenkova opened with a routine service hold to love, but that’s about as easy as it would get. Despite the scoreboard showing a 6-1 final set, Stosur put up a monumental battle to send five of those games to deuce and dodge eight break points before the Russian broke her twice.
Stosur created a whopping nine break chances but couldn’t convert on any as Pavlyuchenkova wrapped up a marathon final game to book her spot into the second round.
“She reached the semifinals last year in the French Open, and I’ve played her in the past as well so I know it’s always tough, especially with her kick and very good serve,” Pavlyuchenkova assessed.
“I had to adjust my returns, and my position on the return. It was a little bit having to fight with myself as well. But I thought she played really well today, and both of us did a good match.”
Pavlyuchenkova will take on the winner in Tuesday’s match between Anastasija Sevastova and Irina-Camelia Begu.