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By Erik Gudris

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (May 2, 2013) -- When top seed Marion Bartoli and then later No. 2 seed Dominika Cibulkova both lost in their opening round matches at this week's Portugal Open, you knew the event was now officially a free-for-all for those left in the draw. And with several players looking to boost their rankings in time for Roland Garros, making it to this weekend's finals became a priority for those playing in today's quarterfinals.

An all-Russian battle took place when Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova squared off against fellow Fed Cup teammate Elena Vesnina. They may be friendly off court but this was no friendly contest as the match came down to a tight third set.

Vesnina fought off two match points against her while down 4-5 and eventually held her serve for 5-all. Though Vesnina broke for 6-5, she found herself broken right back by Pavlyuchenkova and that meant a final set tiebreak was needed.

Pavlyuchenkova used her bigger serve and skills up at the net to run away with the breaker as she closed out the 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(3) win.

Currently being coached by former No. 1 Martina Hingis who has started traveling with Pavlyuchenkova at events, Pavlyuchenkova says the new arrangement is helping her have a much better season than last year.

"She knows so much about the game and really helps me. I'm enjoying it all so much. Martina is very experienced and sees tennis well. Her help is coming at just the right moment," Pavlyuchenkova told AFP.

Waiting for Pavlyuchenkova next will be Switzerland's Romina Oprandi. Oprandi had little trouble defeating Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-2 earlier in the day. Oprandi didn't face a break point all match while breaking the Russian's serve four times. Oeiras is now Oprandi's third WTA semifinal of her career.

Kanepi and Suarez Navarro Set Up Repeat of Last Year's Finals

Defending champion Kaia Kanepi of Finland is a player that not seen much in 2013. A right achilles injury has forced Kanepi to withdraw from multiple events this season including Melbourne, Indian Wells and Charleston.

But Kanepi is hoping to repeat as champion in Portugal and she took a step closer with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Japan's Ayumi Morita.

Now she will get a rematch against Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro in a rematch of last year's very close final. Suarez Navarro got past lucky loser Monica Puig of Puerto Rico who was playing in her first ever WTA quarterfinal. Suarez Navarro's clay court experience shone as she took care of Puig 6-2, 6-4.

Kanepi, who leads the head to head 2 to 1 versus Suarez Navarro expects a tough match tomorrow.

"I know how she plays and it's going to be a tough match for sure," Kanepi told WTA.com. "I'm defending my title and will try my best - I'll leave everything I have to defend, and we'll see what happens."

(Photo Credit: AP)

 

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