Pavlyuchenkova ousts former champion Kerber to reach quarters


MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova stayed aggressive in the face of a spirited fightback from former champion Angelique Kerber to move into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open with a 6-7(5) 7-6(4) 6-2 win on Monday.

It will be the third quarter-final appearance in four years for the 28-year-old Russian and her win ensured Melbourne Park will crown a new women’s singles champion on Saturday.

Pavlyuchenkova hit an incredible 71 winners, more than double of her opponent, against 36 unforced errors but still needed two hours and 37 minutes to see off the challenge from the former world number one.

Asked if it was a tough outing in her on-court interview, the Russian shot back, “You think so?”, before breaking into laughter.

“It was extremely tough. In my head I lost it couple of times during the match. So I am really happy that I am standing here right now,” she said.

The players had equally spilt their 14 previous appearances coming into the fourth-round clash and there was not much separating them on the scoreboard on Monday till the end of the second set on Margaret Court Arena.

German 17th seed Kerber rallied from 5-2 down and a 3-0 deficit in the tie-breaker to win the opening set against Pavlyuchenkova, who hit an incredible 28 winners to 12 unforced errors but still found herself trailing at the end of the set.

The second set had a similar pattern as three-time Grand Slam winner Kerber saved three set points to force a tie-breaker but the Russian 30th seed would not let the chance slip this time and leveled the match with a booming backhand winner.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Kerber, who won at Melbourne Park in 2016, finally ran out of gas as Pavlyuchenkova broke her first two service games in the decider to run up a 4-0 lead.

One last-ditch effort saw Kerber, who saved 13 out of 18 breakpoints she faced, get a break back at 4-2 but it was not enough to stop Pavlyuchenkova from winning the next two games as the Russian served her fourth ace to end the contest.

In her next match, Pavlyuchenkova will face another multiple Grand Slam winner in Garbine Muguruza, who strolled past Kiki Bertens 6-3 6-3 earlier on Monday.

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Christian Radnedge