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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, February 18, 2020

 
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova lost 19 straight points to start then streaked through 12 of the last 13 games dismissing defending Dubai champion Belinda Bencic.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova took roll reversal to exacting extremes today.

Pavlyuchenkova dropped 19 straight points in a staggering start to Belinda Bencic.

More: Muguruza Quells Inspired Clijsters in Comeback Match

Then she dropped the hammer on the defending Dubai champion.

Staging a ruthless rally, Pavlyuchenkova powered through 12 of the last 13 games steamrolling a shell-shocked Bencic 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 to roll into the Dubai Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships round of 16.

"I'm really, really happy with my performance—well not the first set—but the other two," Pavlyuchenkova told Annabel Croft. "I had to play, I think, my best today because obviously she's defending champion, feels really good here and also is a very, very good player."



It was a day of upsets as two former champions bit the dust.

American qualifier Jennifer Brady demolished two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-1 in an hour.

Four of Svitolina's five losses this season have been straight-sets defeats. 

"It was not a bad start, but then everything just went downhill," Svitolina said. "I wish I could regroup better. In the end, I didn't feel so good the ball. Just everything was all over the place today."

After falling to 4-5 on the season, Svitolina suggested her struggles are mental.  

"At this level it's tough to pick just one thing: everybody is putting the ball over the net, and you have to play long rallies, you have to build the points," Svitolina said. "Before I was more composed with my game. Now it's little bit of a struggle. Maybe mentally or something."

Brady hit five aces and denied three of four break points scoring her second Top 5 win of the year.

Last month, Brady stunned world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in Brisbane. The former UCLA Bruin says self-confidence and a rigorous off-season training regimen have sparked a solid start to the season.

"I'm respecting my opponent, but not to the point where I put her on a pedestal," Brady said. "I was just focused on my game plan, myself, I competed well from the very beginning.

"From the start, maybe she felt my presence. I was happy with the way I performed."


It is Pavlyuchenkova's second Top 5 triumph in a month.

The explosive Russian baseliner topped world No. 2 Karolina Pliskova in two tie break sets at last month's Australian Open where she reached the quarterfinals for the third time in her last four Melbourne appearances.

Talk about titanic tumble.

Bencic launched her Dubai defense ranked a career-high No. 4, had won four of five prior meetings vs. Pavlyuchenkova, force-fed the Russian four straight bagels to open this match and appeared to be in complete command before her downward spiral.

The world No. 31 couldn't win a point and couldn't find the court, but Pavlyuchenkova never lost desire and ultimately that helped ignite a remarkable reversal.

"It happens," Pavlyuchenkova said. "I honestly couldn't feel the ball really well. And she started off with a very aggressive game, but I stayed positive.

"Still even at 5-0 I couldn't put the ball in the court, but I was still mentally there and I was still fighting and I think that helped me go into the second set to just have this positive mind (set) and fighting."

Pavlyuchenkova, who exited in the opening round in seven of her prior nine Dubai appearances, more than doubled Bencic's winner output—28 to 13—and broke serve six times in an 88-minute comeback.

Tennis Express

The 28-year-old Russian will play either qualifier Sorana Cirstea or Australian Open quarterfinalist Anett Kontaveit for a quarterfinal spot.

World No. 52 Brady will play Marketa Vondrousova in the round of 16

 

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