The highest-ranked Russian in the draw, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova battled past an in-form Klara Koukalova to improve to 13-2 in WTA matches played in Russia.
WTA Staff
January 19, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - Playing in her home country, No.5 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won a thrilling first round encounter with qualifier and former Top 20 player, Klara Koukalova, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Down 0-3 to start the match, the 24-year-old won six of the next seven games to take the opening set, but it came down to the wire against the Czech veteran, who had beaten her in their last two meetings.

"She started really well; actually she played really good the whole match," the Russian said in her on-court interview. "She played three matches in qualifying, so I think that was the key for her. I had a really slow start and didn't feel in good shape, but the only thing I did was fight.

A new event on the WTA calendar, Pavlyuchenkova was impressed by some of the in-match entertainment, including an intricate light show to announce the players.

"That was amazing. Maybe that's why I had a slow start," she said with a laugh. "I was still thinking and looking around.

"The crowd was amazing, as well. I love playing at home. It's Russia!"

The Russian was equally effusive in her praise of the event before main draw action began at the gala dinner.

"It's good for Russian tennis and great for Russian fans to have another WTA tournament in this country. St Petersburg is a beautiful backdrop for this event. I'm very happy to be here and proud to welcome players from all over the world to my home country."

Clocking in at just over two hours, Pavlyuchenkova booked a spot in the second round, where she'll play German youngster, Carina Witthoeft.

"I'm really old already, 24! But it's not about age. I think she's good. She's fresh, and didn't have a bad start to the year. I have to be really focused and play a lot better than today."

Earlier in the day, Witthoeft had dispatched qualifier and former World No.26 Tamira Paszek, 6-3, 6-3. Fellow qualifier Kateryna Kozlova had better luck, upsetting Fed Cup heroine Barbora Strycova, 6-3, 6-4. No.9 seed Monica Niculescu had few problems taking out local wildcard Natlia Vikhlyantseva, 6-0, 6-3, and Yanina Wickmayer set up a second round with No.2 seed Roberta Vinci when she beat Jelena Ostapenko, 6-4, 6-3.

Rising Russian starlet Margarita Gasparyan played the final match of the night in St. Petersburg, dismissing Bojana Jovanovski, 6-1, 6-2.