MOSCOW, Russia - Former champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova advanced to her third final on home soil at the VTB Kremlin Cup after saving match point in a 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-1 victory over Wimbledon quarterfinalist Karolina Muchova.
The Russian, a champion in Moscow in 2014 and runner-up the following year in 2015, will bid to win her first title in over a year when she faces No.3 seed Belinda Bencic in Sunday's final.
Pavlyuchenkova last raised a WTA trophy on the clay courts of the Internationaux de Strasbourg last May, and is contesting her first final on hard courts since winning the Hong Kong Open in the fall of 2017.
"It's amazing to be back in the final for the third time," Pavlyuchenkova said after the match. "Every year I play here, I look forward to play and to have a trophy every time I play. I'm one step closer now, and that's very special.
"I'm very pleased to be in the final and I have one more tomorrow."
— WTA (@WTA) October 19, 2019
In Saturday's match, Pavlyuchenkova was pushed the distance by Muchova, despite breaking serve at love to lead 6-4, 5-4.
After leading 2-0 in the second set and then trailing 4-2, the 28-year-old captured three straight games to serve for the final, but Muchova broke serve to 30 to keep her hopes alive.
The Czech later rallied from multiple deficits in the tiebreak, and saved a match point at 6-5, before winning three straight points to force a final set, but the Russian quickly got back on course to seal the win in two hours and 34 minutes.
"I was more angry at myself rather than disappointed, so I think that helped me [in the third]," Pavlyuchenkova said of dropping the second set.
"Mentally, I was very strong in the end, so I was happy with that. It doesn't matter the score, you just have to play every point."
Landing 71 percent of her first serves, never losing a point behind them, and dropping just one point in four service games overall, the Toray Pan Pacific Open runner-up cruised into her second final appearance in the last five weeks.
The two players were hardly separated on the stat sheet over the course of the match, as each totaled 38 winners.
Muchova racked up just two more unforced errors than Pavlyuchenkova (35 to 33), but ultimately, the Russian's efficiency on serve and ability to create more break points proved decisive.
The World No.40 converted six of 18 break points in the match, while saving 10 of the 13 that she faced.
— WTA (@WTA) October 19, 2019
Looking ahead to Sunday's final, Pavlyuchenkova trails the head-to-head against Bencic, 3-1, with the two having split their two meetings on hard courts.
"I think she's going to have a good match tomorrow, with no pressure," Pavlyuchenkova assessed of the Swiss, after the latter's qualification for the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen.
"It's a final, so we both want to win the trophy, so it's going to be interesting. I'm going to have to play my best, show a good game, and hopefully I can show some good tennis and be 100 percent tomorrow."