Roland-Garros: World No 333 Pavlyuchenkova books spot in last eight, beats Mertens

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Elise Mertens 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 on Sunday. She’ll face the winner of the match between Czech Karolina Muchova and Russian lucky loser Elina Avanesyan in the next round

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova AI/Reuters/Panoramic
French Open 2023 Women's Singles •Round of 16 • completed
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The world No 333 is through to the Roland-Garros quarter-final. Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova moved into the quarter-finals of Roland-Garros by beating Belgian Elise Mertens, the No 28 seed, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 on Sunday.

Pavlyuchenkova – the runner-up in Paris back in 2021 – used her special protected ranking of No 21 to gain direct entry to the Roland-Garros main draw after suffering a knee injury, with the necessary time out pushing her down the rankings. She’s now closing in on the Top 100 when the next rankings are released after the French Open.

So Mertens knew that this would be a tough proposition. The two had played twice before – with both matches coming in 2017 and going to three sets.

Six years on, though, it looked like Mertens might be able to get the job done in straight sets to reach her first quarter-final at Roland-Garros – indeed, her first Slam quarter-final on a surface other than hard court – after taking a 6-3, 3-1 lead. The Belgian was 0-40 up on the Pavlyuchenkova serve as well, with seven opportunities to take a double-break lead.

6-3, balls of 4-1 for Mertens

But Pavlyuchenkova saved all of them – and won three consecutive games to pile the pressure on, taking the tiebreak 7-3 and forcing a decider. She was the quickest out of the blocks in the final set too, moving to a 3-0 lead before Mertens took a medical time-out.

The 28th seed saved match points before Pavlyuchenkova took her fifth to become the lowest-ranked quarter-finalist at a Slam since Kaia Kanepi, the world No 418, at the 2017 US Open.

She will play Czech Karolina Muchova, who defeated the Russian lucky loser Elina Avanesyan next.

Pavlyuchenkova defeated three seeded players

The Russian deserved her place in the quarter-final as she bat three seeded players in four matches. Pavlyuchenkova won against Czech Linda Fruhvirtova (6-2, 6-2), No 15 seed Liudmila Samsonova (4-6, 7-5, 7-5) and No 24 seed Anastasia Potapova (4-6, 6-3, 6-0) ahead of her victory.

In the previous rounds of the French Open, Mertens, ranked No 28, won against Slovak lucky loser Viktoria Hruncakova (6-1, 6-4), Colombian lucky loser Camila Osorio (6-3, 7-6 (3)) and American Jessica Pegula, the No 3 seed (6-1, 6-3).

Roland-Garros (Grand Slam), other last 16 matches (Stade Roland-Garros, clay, EUR 49.600.000, most recent results first):

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