Friday, 3 December 2021

Pavlyuchenkova lifts Hong Kong Open title


HONG KONG:  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova came from behind to win a typhoon-delayed marathon Hong Kong Open final 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) against Daria Gavrilova.

It was three minutes past one o’clock in the morning (1703 GMT) when sixth seed Pavlyuchenkova converted the third of her match points. It enabled the world number 21 to edge over the winning line after 3hr 11min of attritional tennis against her Australian opponent punctuated by frequent rain delays. Almost an hour earlier the Russian had spurned two championship points at 5-4 on her own serve only to see another heavy shower send the players scurrying for cover.

And Pavlyuchenkova only had herself to blame for not getting the job done earlier after racing into a 3-0 lead when the match eventually began at 9:18 pm after a near five-hour delay. She failed to serve out for the first set at 5-3 after being in control almost throughout and saw gritty world number 22 Gavrilova steal in 7-5 on the back of a run of three unanswered games. “I’m just happy to finally finish this match in brutal conditions,” said Pavlyuchenkova after being presented with the trophy.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

The second set was almost a carbon copy of the first but this time the Russian managed to hold her nerve at 5-3 and took it to a decider against the seventh seed. Both players had chances in the third set but they remained deadlocked as tiredness set in and the clock ticked past midnight Pavlyuchenkova then broke for 5-4 but once again failed to close out on her own serve. After a 40-minute final rain delay the pair broke each other’s serve yet again and the match headed for the deciding tiebreak.

Earlier Typhoon Khanun, packing winds of 155 kilometres (97 miles) per hour and heavy rain, had virtually shut down the southern Chinese city, delaying the singles final which had originally been scheduled for a 4:30 pm start.  The weather finally relented just after 7:00 pm and typhoon warning signals were lowered across the city but an initial attempt to start the final at 8:30 pm was aborted when the rain returned.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 1

It has been a torrid week for the $500,000 Hong Kong WTA event. The tournament was rocked even before it started by the pullouts of three big names. US Open champion Sloane Stephens cried off with an injury after losing in the first round in both Wuhan and Beijing, her only appearances since her Flushing Meadows triumph.

British world number 10 Johanna Konta also cancelled her trip because of a foot problem, while France’s 13th-ranked Kristina Mladenovic opted out with a knee injury.  Of the stars that did show up at Victoria Park, sixth-ranked defending champion Caroline Wozniacki and fourth-ranked top seed Elina Svitolina both pulled out with injuries minutes before their second round matches on Thursday.  World number five Venus Williams had at least taken to the court in the second round, only to be swiftly sent packing in straight sets on Wednesday by Japanese teenager Naomi Osaka.

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