ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova continued her strong run of form in 2019, defeating No.6 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals in front of her home-country fans at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy on Thursday.
"Definitely [Ostapenko] was a tough opponent," Pavlyuchenkova said to the press, following her victory. "I’m really happy I am through to the quarterfinals here. I think I played a really good and solid match from the start to the end."
World No.32 Pavlyuchenkova finds herself in her second straight quarterfinal, following a run to the elite eight at the Australian Open last week -- the fifth Grand Slam quarterfinal result of her career.
Ostapenko had triumphed in their sole previous encounter, in the first round of the grass-court event in Birmingham in 2006. On this occasion, though, Pavlyuchenkova emerged victorious in the battle of the power players, clinching victory in one hour and 24 minutes.
"I actually am enjoying being out there on the court -- we usually say that, but I really, truly enjoy it!" Pavlyuchenkova exclaimed. "After really good rallies, it makes me feel like it’s really good tennis I’m playing. I think it helps me as well to get some tough wins, because there I can fight and enjoy myself."
The combatants are both known for their heavy hitting off the ground, with plenty of winners and miscues. But Pavlyuchenkova put together a relatively clean match, with a near-equal amount of winners and unforced errors. The Russian was also clutch on break points, converting three of her five chances, while Ostapenko could only break once out of her six opportunities.
After an early exchange of breaks in the the first two games of the clash, Pavlyuchenkova and Ostapenko settled into a rhythm of blasting full-tilt groundstrokes at each other, with the expected bruising results by each.
The decisive game in the first set came at 3-3, when sturdy defense by Pavlyuchenkova led to a clutch of unforced errors from Ostapenko, and the Russian took advantage to break and lead 4-3. Pavlyuchenkova’s powerful serving propelled her through two close service games to retain her advantage and tuck away the opening set.
After a first set where the players had a combined three break points, the opportunities to grab an opponent’s service game came fast and furious as the second set kicked off, with each woman grabbing but failing to convert two chances, en route to a 3-3 deadlock.
It would be Pavlyuchenkova who would finally crack open the set in that game. The Russian slammed a service return deep into the court on break point to force a backhand error by Ostapenko, thereby clinching the only break of the second set to pull ahead 4-3.
The Russian needed to quickly steel herself after that break, as Ostapenko fired winners at will to reach triple break point in the next game. But superb serving by Pavlyuchenkova, including two aces, got her out of that jam to maintain her single-break lead. Two games later, the Russian hit a backhand winner crosscourt to convert her first match point for the win.
Pavlyuchenkova will aim for her first semifinal of the season when she takes on 2nd-seeded Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens, the World No.8, in the quarterfinals. Bertens beat qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure in straight sets on Thursday.
Bertens leads the head-to-head with Pavlyuchenkova 3-2, but the Russian has won the last two meetings, including at the 2019 Australian Open in both players' most recent event.