TOKYO, Japan - No.2 seed Caroline Garcia kicked off her Asian Swing with a hard-fought win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, needing three sets to move into the second round at the Toray Pan Pacific Open.
The Frenchwoman came into the matchup trailing Pavlyuchenkova 0-3 in the pair’s head-to-head record, but Garcia finally scored her first victory, saving match points to score a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 win.
“It was definitely a battle out there,” Garcia said in her post-match interview. “I’m very happy with the win today; it’s the first time I beat Nastia, so it’s even better.
“I’m very happy to be back in Japan. This year’s tournament in Tachikawa is different: different conditions, smaller stadium. But still a lot of people coming to watch.”
— WTA (@WTA) September 19, 2018
Pavlyuchenkova led by a break in each set, which left Garcia having to mount comeback after comeback. She recovered from a 2-0 deficit in the first set as Pavlyuchenkova got off to an early lead, breaking back at 2-2 before edging the Russian in her last service game to take the opening set.
But Garcia was under even more pressure in the second set, as Pavlyuchenkova brought up six break chances against the Frenchwoman's serve - converting twice to take the match into a decider.
Pavlyuchenkova once again got off to an early lead against Garcia, breaking at 3-2 and holding onto her lead for much of the set as Garcia struggled to make inroads. Garcia created five break chances across two of Pavlyuchenkova’s service games, but wasn’t able to convert as the Russian player closed in on the match.
Garcia had to save three match points, once at 5-3 and two more at 5-4 as Pavlyuchenkova looked to serve out the match. The Frenchwoman held firm, reeling off the last four games in a row to take the victory after two hours and 15 minutes on court.
Up next, Garcia will face the winner of a matchup between two dangerous unseeded players, either Johanna Konta or Donna Vekic.
Being back in Asia recalled memories of last year, where Garcia put together the best run of her career to win Wuhan and Beijing back to back and reach the WTA Finals - but she told press she’s not feeling any pressure to recreate those results.
“I think everything is open for every player - including me,” she said. “I’m still in the Race for now, and I think I’m closer now than last year at this time for the last spot. So maybe I can do it, maybe I cannot.
“I’ll just try my best, try to improve and I hope I make it. If I don’t, it’s still a great experience. This year I know I haven’t been perfect, but I can just stay positive and keep improving.”