Pavlyuchenkova beats Errani in Paris, claims 6th career title
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is making up for lost time at the age of 22. The Russian looked like a safe bet to become a top 10 player when she cracked the top 50 in 2008 and broke into the top 20 two years later.
Since reaching a career-high No. 13 ranking in July 2011, Pavlyuchenkova has struggled to fulfill her potential.
She might have put her career back on track by defeating third-seeded Sara Errani of Italy 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 Sunday in the final of the Open GDF Suez for her sixth career title.
''Definitely, now I feel more mature,'' Pavlyuchenkova said. ''My mentality is a little bit different. Last year or a few years ago, I would lose here in the first round, for sure.''
Pavlyuchenkova captured her first title of the season and her first since winning the Portugal Open in May 2013.
The unseeded Russian dictated the points, making 48 winners to 18 for Errani.
Errani won seven straight games to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the first set and lead 2-0 in the second. But Pavlyuchenkova responded by also winning seven straight games to even the match and lead 1-0 in the third.
In the final set, Pavlyuchenkova hit a backhand return winner to break for a 5-3 lead and sealed the victory with a forehand winner.
''That was a very mental match,'' Pavlyuchenkova said. ''That gives me a bit of confidence. But I still need to work harder. That was a fantastic week, but I have to keep it going. I hope my level will be a bit more consistent and that I will keep this level.''
Pavlyuchenkova won all her matches at this tournament in three sets. She was coached for a brief period last year by Martina Hingis before resuming her partnership with her dad, Sergey.
''He was my first coach, so he taught me everything I'm doing now,'' Pavlyuchenkova said. ''And he was always there for me, even when I had other coaches. He never let me down.''
Pavlyuchenkova got off to a good start by breaking Errani in the third game. But she made numerous unforced errors to squander that advantage, dropping serve at 3-2 with a wide backhand and at 4-3 with a forehand into the net. Errani hit a backhand drop shot to take the opening set.
''I had a lot of emotions going on,'' Pavlyuchenkova said. ''I was just stressing out because I was missing some shots. She was very strong today, so that was frustrating.''
Errani broke Pavlyuchenkova in the opening game of the second set with a forehand pass. Pavlyuchenkova saved a break point at 2-0 to stay in the match and the momentum suddenly changed.
''From 2-0 in the second set, I thought I had a blackout,'' Errani said. ''The ball was heavier. For me, it was difficult. I had some very bad games.''
Pavlyuchenkova slapped forehand return winners to break serve at 2-1 and 3-2 in the second set before Errani sent a forehand long to lose the set.
In the decider, Errani capitalized on a backhand error from Pavlyuchenkova to break for a 2-1 lead. However, Pavlyuchenkova broke back in the sixth game when Errani's backhand sailed long.
Pavlyuchenkova has defeated three top 10 players in the same tournament for the first time in her career. She beat Maria Sharapova of Russia in the semifinals and Angelique Kerber of Germany in the quarterfinals.
Errani lost in the final of the Paris tournament for the second straight time.