WTA Linz: 2015 champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova off to a winning start

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WTA Linz: 2015 champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova off to a winning start

2015 champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova began her fourth Upper Austria Ladies Linz campaign with a 7-5 7-5 victory over Viktoria Kuzmova. Magdalena Rybarikova, returned after last year’s runner-up finish, suffered instead a first-round 6-3 6-4 defeat to Alison Van Uytvanck.

The No.6 seed Russian, who lifted the trophy here back in 2015, had won this season her 12th WTA singles title in 18 finals in Strasbourg. The epic final clash against Cibulkova, in which she saved 2 match points, marked the second-longest WTA match of 2018 (3hrs, 36min).

Pavlyuchenkova broke twice to build a 4-1 lead in the first set against the Slovak, who claimed the maiden WTA main draw victory of her career here last year over Anna-Lena Friedsam. But the Budapest semifinalist didn't manage to repeat that feat despite she managed to save two set points and level the score to 5-5.

Pavlyuchenkova, however, converted the sixth chance amd brought the favourable momentum in the second set. Again, Kuzmova succeeded in breaking back and again Pavlyuchenkova raised her level in the closing stages to seal the win.

“Of course I have very nice memories here in Linz,” Pavlyuchenkova said, as WTATennis.com reported. “It’s nice to come and remember I won here three years ago. It feels awesome, but now it’s a new year, a new week.

Every match is very difficult - I would love to repeat here but it’s still very far ahead. I can’t think really think about it.” Up next, Pavlyuchenkova will face the winner between Vera Lapko and Belinda Bencic.

The Swiss, one of three wildcards alongside 2015 finalist Ana-Lena Friedsam and Barbara Haas, is playing her second tournament since coming back from wrist surgery after winning the title at an ITF Circuit tournament in St.Petersburg.

Pavlyuchenkova is one of three former titlists in the draw, along with 2016 champion Dominika Cibulkova and the title-holder Barbora Strycova. The top seed Julia Goerges will begin her campaign to replicate last year’s stellar finish where she captured titles at Moscow and Zhuhai, while the No.2 seed Kiki Bertens is looking to produce solid results this week in Linz to better her qualifying chances for
the WTA Finals Singapore.

Van Uytvanck extended her in the head-to-head with No.7 seed Rybarikova to 4-1. The Belgian won three consecutive first-round matches in 2015 in Antwerp, Miami and Katowice, before losing the final of the Ilkley ITF $100,000 event in 2017 on grass.

Today's matches in the last round of qualifying saw top seed Anna-Karolina Schmiedlova, Anna Blinkova, Fiona Ferro, Ekaterina Alexandrova, Valentini Grammatikopoulou, and Jil Teichmann earn main draw spots.