MELBOURNE, Australia -- Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova notched the biggest upset of the 2019 Australian Open to date on Wednesday, eliminating No.9 seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, to reach the third round in Melbourne.
"Obviously, I’m really happy with the win, and also with the way I played today," Pavlyuchenkova said, during her post-match on-court interview. "I think it was a great performance from both of us, and I was maybe a little more lucky in the end. [Bertens is] a super tough opponent, she’s Top 10, so that’s a super-great win for me."
Bertens had won their first three meetings between 2014 and 2016, but Pavlyuchenkova claimed their most recent meeting in Wuhan at the end of last year, and continued her winning streak against the World No.9 after the one-hour-and-48-minute surprise.
World No.44 Pavlyuchenkova reached the Australian Open quarterfinals in 2017, her fourth and most recent Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance. This year, she picked up the 29th Top 10 win of her career over Bertens by out-hitting the Dutchwoman in a close affair, with 28 winners to Bertens' 23. The Russian slid to the win by breaking Bertens three times in the deciding set.
"I’m just trying to enjoy and play hard every match, and take it match by match," Pavlyuchenkova continued. "Today was really tough, I was one set down. Just try to fight, and we’ll see!"
"There’s no magic, you just have to work every point," the Russian concluded.
Former World No.13 Pavlyuchenkova will face off against a fellow unseeded player in the third round: Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus. Sasnovich claimed an upset of her own on Wednesday, ousting No.20 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, 6-3, 6-3.
Bertens started the match by holding in the opening game with a signature ace, and quickly jumped to a 2-0 lead by deploying excellent defense to break Pavlyuchenkova. The Dutchwoman weathered a 0-30 deficit to hold for 4-1, then crushed a forehand winner down the line to break the Russian again and lead 5-1.
Things got dodgy for Bertens when she failed to serve out the set at 5-1, as Pavlyuchenkova used strong forehands and outstanding overheads to pick up two games in a row and pull to 5-3. However, serving for the set for a second time, Bertens wriggled out of a 15-30 hole with two service winners to reach set point, which was converted after a forehand error by the Russian.
The momentum continued to swing in Pavlyuchenkova’s favor as the second set got underway. The Russian tried more plays nearer to the net with increasingly improved results, while the potency of the Bertens serve dipped, causing Pavlyuchenkova to get her first break of the match and lead 2-0.
A divine hold for 3-0, comprised of three winners and a concluding ace, set the tone for the rest of the set, as Pavlyuchenkova persisted in being aggressive, and reaped the benefits. The Russian squandered a break point to lead 5-1, but it was no matter, as she held her advantage throughout and eased to leveling the match at one set apiece.
After an early exchange of breaks to open the final set, Pavlyuchenkova excelled on her passing shots, crushing two passes beyond the reach of Bertens to break serve again and lead 3-2. The Russian nearly let a 40-0 lead slip in the following game, but held on to consolidate and put herself two games away from the win.
At 5-3, strong returning led Pavlyuchenkova to two more break points, which doubled as match points. Pavlyuchenkova only needed one opportunity, as Bertens shot a forehand miscue wide to give the Russian her third Top 10 win at a Grand Slam event.