Pavlyuchenkova primed to take next step

  • Alex Sharp

Melbourne Park will always bring back fond memories for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. 

The Russian has been crowned a champion on these grounds, lifting the girls’ singles title in 2006 and 2007. 

Since then, the 28-year-old has been knocking at the door for major success with commendable consistency. 

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The Russian has been a regular visitor to the final eight at the Australian Open

The No.30 seed this fortnight has advanced to the Australian Open quarterfinals for the third time in four years with some standout performances, raising the bar to new levels in the fourth round last time out. 

Pavlyuchenkova struck a staggering 71 winners to knock out AO2016 champion Angelique Kerber 6-7(5) 7-6(4) 6-2 on Monday night. It was a tally so impressive that even the Russian didn’t believe the stat when told in her post-match press conference. 

The world No.30 has a simple assessment for why she’s been able to post another second-week campaign at Melbourne Park. 

“I think my attitude, my fights and spirit. I was there pretty much every point,” said the Russian, who has reached the quarterfinal stage at all four Grand Slams.

“That always I think pays off, or at least that gives you some sort of confidence. Sometimes there were some moments or matches where I didn't feel my best or I didn't play my best, but I still was there.”

A lot of players speak of staying in the zone, and Pavlyuchenkova is no different to her title rivals. 

“Disciplined. Just fighting, focused of course,” added the Russian, explaining her attitude, which she believes has improved in recent months. 

“Sometimes before … I would go crazy and I would lose myself. You would just not do what you have to do. Normally you prepare the match, you discuss with your coach. I would go and I would just go crazy. I will start doing something. He will be like, ‘Well, hello. Where are you? You're just not here anymore.’” 

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Pavlyuchenkova says an improved focus has seen her tennis take a leap

Prior to the blistering battle with Kerber, Pavlyuchenkova had outwitted her opening three opponents in straight sets, including a 7-6(4) 7-6(3) triumph over No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova. 

MORE: Pliskova becomes the latest big name to fall

Is the Russian reaching the peak of her powers? Pavlyuchenkova insists there is more to come. 

“I'm not going to say I'm not playing my best tennis, not at all,” added the 28-year-old, eager to keep building on her recent momentum. 

“I feel like I play good, of course, good tennis. But I still feel like I can improve a lot of things. That gives me also a lot of positive things. During the match, I guess I got to work harder, I got to improve this. It gives me more confidence or belief that there is still room for improvement, which is always good.” 

‘I like these tough matches. I'm enjoying it. Before I think my game was always there, and I could come up with a lot of winners before, too. It's not enough just to play'
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Victory for Pavlyuchenkova on Wednesday would represent a maiden semifinal at a major. 

Two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza, who leads their head-to-head at 4-1, presents the obstacle to the final four. 

For Pavlyuchenkova, the emphasis of enjoyment under coach Sam Sumyk, a former coach of Muguruza, is essential for sustained success in 2020.

“We do a lot of work. I've been working so hard during the off-season, putting a lot of work in off the court and on court,” she said. 

“But I think I just find it more fun now. I like these tough matches. I'm enjoying it. Before I think my game was always there, and I could come up with a lot of winners before, too. It's not enough. It's not enough just to play. 

“Sometimes win is the win. You have to win somehow, find a way. I enjoy that sometimes, too. How many times you're not going to play your best tennis every match obviously. Sometimes something is off. You just feel more tired or whatever. That's the part of the game.” 

Up for the fight, seeking enjoyment and wielding her racquet for countless winners, Pavlyuchenkova seems poised to make a major move.