March 7, 2010

A Double Header

With the baseball preseason just getting underway it seems appropriate that the Monterrey Open held this week culminated in a two-for-one situation. When the second semifinal was postponed on Saturday, third seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was forced to start her day early, and after getting past Anastasija Sevastova in the morning, she found herself contesting her first Tour final just a few hours later.

The eighteen-year-old may be new to the sport's elite, but Pavlyuchenkova has amassed quite a resume over the last few months. She made her first semi last year at Indian Wells and capped off 2009 with back-to-back wins over Venus Williams in Tokyo and Beijing. In Monterrey this week, she hadn't dropped a set until this morning, spending barely three hours on court in her first three rounds.

For her efforts she met Daniela Hantuchova for the title. The more experienced Slovak has been mounting a comeback story of her own, of late -- having dropped out of the top forty last year, she hasn't won a championship since Indian Wells in 2007. But she's been on the rebound and made the finals in Mexico on the heels of two decisive come-from-behind victories over American Vania King and compatriot Dominika Cibulkova.

The match started off looking as though Pavlyuchenkova was spent -- in a quick first set she was broken twice and won less than thirty percent of her second serves. But the one-time top-ranked junior player was relentless -- after losing the first set 1-6, she came back to mirror that score in the second and tied it up with a 6-1 set of her own where she won every one of her first serves. The third set was another quick one, and the Russian only allowed Daniela two points in her service games. She held her opponent at love and in less than two hours, Anastasia had won her first title.

Apparently the three sets she played early on Sunday were just a warm-up -- after a small hiccup in the evening Pavlyuchenkova seldom looked back in her first championship match. And at eighteen she's already showing signs that she could be one to watch in the coming years. She certainly knows how to perform against the top players, and with just a little more time, something tells me she'll become a force at the Majors as well.

And I look forward to watching her succeed!

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