Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pavlyuchenkova reaches quarters at French Open

Sunday, September 4, 2011

PARIS ? Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova hit winners all over the place and was rewarded for her high-risk tennis, reaching the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time on Sunday.

The 19-year-old Russian defeated third-seeded Vera Zvonareva 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2 on center court at Roland Garros and will next play either defending champion Francesca Schiavone or Jelena Jankovic.

Pavlyuchenkova recovered from a slow start and then kept pressuring Zvonareva, hitting 45 winners and 41 unforced errors.

She was down a break early in the deciding but said her mental strength helped her prevail.

"I think maybe in the past, or last year, I wouldn't have believed I can win this match against that top player," Pavlyuchenkova said. "I remember last year against Serena Williams (in the third round), it was the third set and she broke me once, and then I didn't really believe that I could come back. It was 6-1 in the third for her. This time I think that was the main key."

Zvonareva opened up a 5-2 lead but failed to build on the momentum and was forced into a tiebreaker after Pavlyuchenkova saved a set point in the 12th game.

Pavlyuchenkova closed out the set with a forehand volley winner but then lost four games in a row to start the second set.

Zvonareva broke for a 2-1 lead in the deciding set, but she lost the last five games. Pavlyuchenkova converted her third match point when Zvonareva sent a forehand long.

Zvonareva denied she lost the mental battle despite her incapacity to make the difference on important points.

"There is no mental problem," she said. "I think every time I was taking the risk, I wasn't so consistent. That's why I was playing a little bit too passive. It's not acceptable at this stage of the Grand Slam."

Pavlyuchenkova's previous best result at a major was reaching the fourth round at the U.S. Open last year. She has three WTA titles to her name and has won three junior Grand Slam tournaments. She was the junior champion at the Australian Open and the U.S. Open in 2006 before winning the 2007 Australian Open. She was also a runner-up at the junior French Open.

"She's been very consistent, and she's definitely young and she's got great potential," Zvonareva said. "I'm sure we will see her a lot in the future."

The Russian teenager lived two years in France and said her favorite surface is clay.

"I really like France. Actually, I like Paris," she said. "French Open is my favorite Grand Slam. So, yeah, of course my goal is to do really well here and it's a dream to win Roland Garros once."

After Zvonareva's exit, No. 4 Victoria Azarenka is the highest-seeded player remaining in the women's draw. No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and No. 2 Kim Clijsters both lost in the third round.

"Everyone is talking that we don't really have a leader right now in women's tennis, because it's like up and down in terms of results," Pavlyuchenkova said. "It's not like No. 1 or top 5 are winning, like in men's tennis."

Zvonareva was bidding to reach the quarterfinals of the French Open for only the second time. She had to save a match point against Sabine Lisicki in the second round and said she didn't play her best tennis at Roland Garros this week.

"I know what I have to work on and what I have to improve," she said. "But I should be satisfied. I could have played much better, but I still made it to the fourth round.

"Of course when you play less than 50 percent of your potential, it's very tough to win the fourth round of a Grand Slam."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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