Anaastasia Pavlyuchenkova won the biggest title of her career, her first Premier championship, capturing the 2014 Open GDF Suez in Paris, France. To do so, she had to defeat four seeded players in a row (Carla Suarez Navarro, Angelique Kerber, Maria Sharapova and Sara Errani), including 3 Top 10 ranked players (Kerber, Sharapova and Errani). It was a well earned champion’s trophy, indeed. Early on in the final it looked like it might not happen for her. Pavlyuchenkova came out strong, going up 3-1, but then lost 7 games in a row as finalist Sara Errani came storming back. Finding herself down 3-6 0-2 and facing a game point against her for a possible 0-3 second set deficit, Anastasia took her game to another level in the nick of time. She responded with her own 7 game win streak for a 3-6 6-2 1-0 lead. But Errani was not done. The Italian star reeled off a quick 3 games to put Pavlyuchenkova down 1-3 in the final set. Fittingly for such a streaky match, Anastasia answered by winning the final 5 games of the match to finally prevail, 3-6 6-2 6-3.
The win gives Anastasia her 6th WTA singles title. She made 4 singles finals last year (2013), winning 2. However, 2014 saw her get off to a rocky start with 2nd, 1st and 3rd round losses in her previous 3 events respectively. Hopefully, this tournament will get her back on track, particularly when one considers the level of competition she defeated. At only 22 years old, Pavyluchenkova doesn’t always get highlighted as one of the potential young stars on tour. If she keeps playing as she did this week in Paris, she will.
I give Anastasia credit for taking out the top seed, Maria Sharapova, in the semifinals. However, it must be noted that Masha had a horrible serving day, particularly in the last set. How bad did it get? She had a terrible first serve percentage of 48 percent in the 3rd set. It was a final set that saw Sharapova double fault 5 times, including on back to back points to end the match. I don’t want to say I’m ready to worry about Masha’s game yet. After all, she’s coming off an injury last year. A loss to Serena Williams in the semis of Brisbane is understandable. A loss to Dominika Cibulkova in the round of 16 at the Australian Open isn’t a tragedy either. Domi plays Masha tough, plus she reached the final going through Agnieszka Radwanska as well. A semifinal loss to Pavlyuchenkova does raise an eyebrow. I can write it off a bit as Masha just having one of those crazy service yip days…and hopefully not the resurfacing of shoulder problems.
While Maria Sharapova’s serve was letting her down in Paris, 2014 PTT Pattaya Open finalists Ekaterina Makarova and Karolina Pliskova were putting on a serving clinic. There was only 1 service break game in the match, which went to the winner, Makarova, in the 8th game of the first set to go up 5-3. Katya would go on to close out a tough match 6-3 7-6 (9-7). This was a razor thin match that could have gone either way. Pliskova twice had set point in the tiebreak, but couldn’t convert. It is Makarova’s 2nd WTA singles title. It will be interesting to see where Karolina goes from here. The 21-year old was the girls junior winner of the Australian Open in 2010. On the WTA, she won her first event last year at the 2013 Malaysian Open. She also won a doubles title last year at the 2013 Generali Ladies Linz. She won partnering with her sister, Kristyna Pliskova. You never know if a young talent will keep the great play going, become a journeywoman or fade away. We’ll see which one Karolina will do.