January 20, 2019 / 3:09 PM / a month ago

Pavlyuchenkova beats Stephens in marathon contest to reach quarters

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Unseeded Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won a marathon three-setter against American fifth seed Sloane Stephens 6-7(3) 6-3 6-3 to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals on Sunday and match her best show in Grand Slams.

Tennis - Australian Open - Fourth Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, January 21, 2019. Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Sloane Stephens of the U.S. greet each other after the match. REUTERS/Edgar Su

The unseeded Russian reached her second quarter-final at Melbourne Park after her 2017 run and will now meet another American in Danielle Collins for a place in the last four.

Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open winner, started strongly by gaining a 4-1 advantage but her Russian opponent got the break back before the 25-year-old American won the set via a tiebreaker.

The second set started in similar fashion with Stephens breaking early to run up a 2-0 lead before another fightback from the 27-year-old Pavlyuchenkova.

The Russian got back on serve in the fourth game before breaking Stephens to go up 5-3 and then converted her third set point to level the match.

In the first game of the third set, Stephens saved eight breakpoints to hold in a marathon game that lasted for 26 points and close to 20 minutes.

Stephens then lost steam as the world number 44 converted her second match point to seal the day’s final match in two hours and 32 minutes, finishing at almost 2 a.m. local time.

Pavlyuchenkova said she hated an icebath but her physio would still make her have one despite the late finish.

“I was even thinking during the match that some of you guys stayed... I heard somebody was yawning though sometimes during the match,” the Russian said in her on-court interview. “I’m sorry, I thought it was quite an exciting match.

“Sloane is a great player, is a fighter... and I had to be aggressive, yeah.”

Unseeded Collins thrashed 2016 champion and second seed Angelique Kerber 6-0 6-2 earlier on Sunday.

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Clare Fallon

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