TOKYO, Japan - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova went from leading by a set and 5-2 to trailing 0-3 in the deciding set, but won six of the final seven games to defeat former WTA World No.1 Angelique Kerber, 6-0, 6-7(4), 6-4, to reach her first Premier final since 2015 at the Toray Pan Pacific Open.
"It was a lot of drama from both sides," she said during her on-court interview. "I didn’t expect to start so good, and I was playing really good tennis. Some moments weren’t so good, but I have to give credit to Angelique; she’s a great fighter, and it’s never easy against her. That’s why the score was like this, because she always turns things around. She played a great match, but I’m really happy to be in the finals here."
Pavlyuchenkova beat Kerber in three tough sets earlier in the year to win the Abierto GNP Seguros in Monterrey, but appeared on course for a much more decisive victory on Saturday, winning the first eight games with points for a 6-0, 3-0 lead.
Kerber kept things closer from there, even as the Russian edged ahead by another break in the second set. Earning the crucial mini-break at 4-4 in the ensuing tie-break, the two-time Grand Slam champion took a seemingly insurmountable lead in the decider, one that left Pavlyuchenkova thinking about next week's Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open.
"I was already thinking about going to Wuhan; in my head I was booking flights! But at the same time, I always fight to the last point."
Fight she did, hitting a stunning 57 winners to just 43 unforced errors and breaking serve seven times to serve out the victory after two hours and eight minutes on court.
Pavlyuchenkova is aiming for her third title of 2017, and her biggest since the 2014 Kremlin Cup, and will play either another former WTA World No.1 in Caroline Wozniacki in the final.
"This tournament is strong, every round is tough," added Pavlyuchenkova in her media conference. "Hopefully my energy levels will be there tomorrow and I will play good tennis."