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Pavlyuchenkova Enjoying Paris Comeback After Injury Hiatus

By Erik Gudris | @atntennis | Sunday, June 4, 2023

“Whatever happened to Pavs?”, is a question many tennis fans have probably been asking over the last two years. 


Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, aka “Pavs” for short. has been off the tennis radar for a while, but is now enjoying a welcomed comeback at this year’s Roland Garros.

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The former finalist in 2021 is back into the last eight of Paris after a hard-fought three-set 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 win against No. 28 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium.



“I’m glad to be back on this court again,” Pavlyuchenkova told Marion Bartoli afterwards, referring to the main stadium court in Paris. “I couldn’t play for a whole year.” 


Since reaching her first major final in Paris two years ago, where she lost to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova, it’s been a tough road back for the 31-year-old Russian veteran.


Last year she suffered a knee injury early in the season that eventually forced her out of action midway through the 2022 season including missing Roland Garros. After knee surgery, Pavlyuchenkova began her comeback this year despite having dropped to World No. 333 in the rankings.


Rehab after her surgery for Pavlyuchenkova proved difficult as she revealed in a recent interview that she could not walk or sit down in the early stages. While she always intended to make a comeback, she wasn’t sure if she could again at the highest level. 


I for sure wanted to come back. There was no doubt about it," Pavlyuchenkova said. "But of course there was a fear and doubts that I knew I would come back but how I would come back I didn't know. I had a fear that and doubts that maybe I will never win a match again. Maybe I will never get my good form back or I will never be fit again. What if I start playing again and the pain comes back and my knee is bad again?

"So of course I had a lot of thoughts and fear. But I guess this motivation and this desire of coming back and competing again and being on these big stages again and playing three-hour matches like today, you know, there was a lot more weight on that. So that kind of pushed me.

"I believed, I worked so hard, and even with all the failures that I had this year, earlier this year, and there was like sometimes ridiculous matches that I lost, still kept on believing, working hard, and just persistence and patience.” 

Tennis Express

Pavlyuchenkova has been looking more like her old self again with the confident ball striking that took her all the way to World No. 11, her highest ranking yet.


She needed all those skills in her match with Mertens.


Mertens jumped out to an early lead by taking the first set and going up 3-1 in the second set. Yet Pavlyuchenkova started finding her way in the match and eventually took the set in a tiebreak to force a decider.


Pavlyuchenkova herself then secured a 4-1 double break lead in the decisive set. Mertens eventually called for a medical time out to deal with a back issue. When play resumed, Pavlyuchenkova edged ahead 5-1 and looked poised to close things out quickly.


That didn’t happen as Mertens, serving to stay in the match, fought off three match points before claiming the game with an ace for 2-5. Mertens then broke Pavlyuchenkova as she served for the match at 3-5.


The Belgian’s momentum was short-lived however as Pavlyuchenkova soon held more match points on her opponent’s serve. A final sweeping crosscourt backhand winner clinched the victory for Pavlyuchenkova and put her into a quarterfinal major for the seventh time in her career.


Pavlyuchenkova is now the lowest-ranked women’s singles player ever to reach the Roland Garros quarterfinals in WTA history. 


So far this tournament, Pavlyuchenkova has played in some of the longest matches on the women’s side. Including her over three hour match today with Mertens, she also needed over three hours to defeat No. 15 seed Liudmila Samsonova in the second round.

Pavlyuchenkova will next face Karolina Muchova for a place in the semifinals.

Photo credit: Getty