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Dubai Duty-Free 2020: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova shocks defending champion Belinda Bencic in opening round

WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship - Day Two
WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship - Day Two
Rudy Martinez
ANALYST
Modified 18 Feb 2020, 18:56 IST
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Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova turned a troubling start into an absolute show of dominance at the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships Tuesday. Being nearly swept in the opening set, the Russian found her service game and pounded away at Belinda Bencic winning 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 on Centre Court at the Dubai Tennis Stadium. It not only caused the defending champion to bow out of the competition but ended her three-match grip on the veteran.

The two added a seventh chapter to their rivalry with Bencic winning their last three. With two coming last season, the surging Swiss star looked to defend her title in Dubai. Facing a power-hitting Russian, the task of her opening round would depend on how quickly Bencic came out.

In 10 minutes, the fourth seed won four consecutive games with not one point going to Pavlyuchenkova. Bencic notched the fifth game right before Pavlyuchenkova got on the board to hold serve in the set. Despite the late win, she watched the Swiss star take the set in 25 minutes, but would have her chance to take over the match.

Right from the start of the second, the Russian was broken by Bencic but found a way to break back. The defensive victory set up a complete flip of control as Pavlyuchenkova held serve in the third and added a double break thereafter.

With a better offense coming from the first serve, Pavlyuchenkova managed to record more winners that led to yet another break in the sixth giving her a 5-1 lead. The Russian went on to complete the set in 28 minutes, making it a different outlook with no clear control in place.

With the decider left to play, Pavlyuchenkova attacked the fourth seed for yet another break. It was the seventh game in a row that she defeated Bencic, adding two more for the double break.

Her nine-game dominance of the fourth seed was too much to see any comeback from the 22-year-old who ended the losing streak in the fourth with a break back. Pavlyuchenkova consolidated a triple break in the match before coasting through the sixth with a hold of serve.

All that was left was Bencic serving her last game which she put all her energy into extending. She saved one match point to force deuce, and another on the Russian’s first AD point.

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Despite playing three more breaks, Pavlyuchenkova found her moment for a third chance and succeeded with Bencic returning the ball low and smashing into the net. The match was done and dusted in 90 minutes where the momentum swung off the charts only to see the defending champion out of commission. 

Published 18 Feb 2020, 18:56 IST
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