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What appeared to be a walk in the park for the first hour turned out into a hard-fought 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) triumph as Ana saw off the challenge of world No. 29 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. The 25-year-old was up 4-0 in the second set and just two points from victory on three different occasions, before the Russian made a remarkable comeback that eventually foundered in the tiebreak.
From the very first game Ana put her Russian opponent under pressure with some accurate and deep returning. After being 30-0 down, she reeled off four points to break the Russian’s serve. More breaks were traded in games five and six, but it was Ana who kept her cool on the crucial points, adding another break to wrap up the set in accomplished fashion.
Ana took the momentum from winning the opening set and quickly took command in set two, holding serve to love in the first game in just 74 seconds. She immediately enlarged her advantage by breaking her opponent’s serve before comfortably holding and surging into a 3-0 lead.
Pavlyuchenkova had completely lost the thread and served three double faults in the following game, handing Ana a double break lead on a platter. It looked like Ana was steamrolling her way into the second round, until the former world No.1 suddenly had a sore expression on her face as she suffered from a painful right shoulder.
Pavlyuchenkova saw her chance and stepped into the court, trying to turn the tide. She wonderfully cut out the unforced errors which were omnipresent in the opening set, while Ana’s service percentage dropped due to her injury issues. The world No.29 reduced the arrears step-by-step and forced the second set into a tiebreak.
Ana made the better start in the tiebreak, taking a 4-1 lead and she valiantly fought her way through the rallies as a wounded warrior, earning two match points. Ana was unable to convert the first, but she screamed in delight when a groundstroke from Pavlyuchenkova went long on the second occasion, extending her head-to-head record over the Russian to 5-0 as she moved into round two.
Ana will face either eighth seed Petra Kvitova or Daniela Hantuchova from Slovakia in the second round on Wednesday. The pair will play their first round match tomorrow.
By Joeri Moerman