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Angelique Kerber vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova WTA Tokyo Live Stream: Resurgent Kerber targets second final of the season

Brendan O'Neill 22 Sep 2017
  • Angelique Kerber vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is live from Tokyo on Saturday, 23 September from 12:00pm local time/ 4:00am BST
  • Kerber has a 5-4 lead on head-to-head
Photo by angelicalbite

Angelique Kerber takes on Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the semi-finals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo on Saturday. Will the resurgent Kerber reach her second final in 2017?

Angelique Kerber vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova Pan Pacific Open tennis is live from Tokyo on Saturday, 23 September from 12:00pm local time/ 4:00am BST
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Kerber’s problems this year have been well-documented- she began the season as the top-ranked player in the world, but came into Tokyo way down at number 14 after a multitude of disappointing results. However, the German has looked far more like her No. 1-self this week in Tokyo, perhaps thriving without the burdens of defending that position. Can she take it all the way to a first Tokyo title- and her first trophy of the season? Still some way to go, as she must first take down the dangerous Pavlyuchenkova before contemplating a final.

Kerber has been on a redemption mission in Tokyo this week. First, she took down home favourite and last year’s finalist, Naomi Osaka in the opening round. Osaka had brutally terminated Kerber’s US Open title defence in the first round at Flushing Meadows, but the left-hander got her pound of flesh in Tokyo, dismissing the Japanese 6-3 6-4. 

Kerber then confronted Daria Kasatkina in the second round- the Russian youngster against whom she had already lost twice this season. Kasatkina was one of the first women to expose the cracks in Kerber’s game (mentality?) at the start of the year, scoring two victories over the German within the opening two months of the season. The Russian had beaten Kerber in the opening rounds in Sydney and Doha, but the former world number one bucked that streak in Tokyo, edging out the youngster, 7-6 6-3.

Following her victory over Kasatkina was a showdown with fellow former world number one, Karolina Pliskova. Pliskova had effectively ended Kerber’s reign at the top of the rankings in mid-July, but playing the sort of suffocating tennis that vaulted her to the top of the world in 2016, Kerber secured a reassuring win in the Tokyo quarters- the sort of victory that could spark anther surge up the rankings.

Kerber held her nerve to take the opening set tie break, via a Pliskova double fault, and then kept her cool as break points and match points came and went in the twelfth game of the second set before eventually having her way on her fifth match point. 

"I'm feeling good," said Kerber after the match. "Being back in the semis here in Tokyo is a great feeling... It's always tough to play against [Pliskova], so I was trying to focus on my game. I think I played a good match today."

It was a rare moment of great satisfaction in a year when there has been a severe shortage, but with her problems apparently behind her for now, can the former No. 1 take down Pavlyuchenkova to reach just her second final of the season?

Interestingly, Kerber’s only previous final this year was against Saturday’s opponent in Monterrey, with Pavlyuchenkova winning that in three sets. That was one of the two titles the Russian has this season, as she backed up her Monterrey success with victory in Marrakech. 

While Pavlyuchenkova has had spells of brilliance- the sort of which she is very capable of, she has also incurred characteristic disappointing results, like opening round exits Wimbledon and the US Open. A good start to the season saw her reach the quarter finals of the Australian Open and Indian Wells, and then those titles in Monterrey and Marrakech, but she went off the boil after that, with quarter finals in Stanford and New Haven the only results worth mentioning post Marrakech. Pavlyuchenkova has not been overly convincing in Tokyo, but she has battled into the semis with consecutive three-set victories. 
The 26-year-old was taken the distance by CiCi Bellis in the opening round, likewise by Qiang Wang in the second round, before coming from a set down and a break down to power past Barbora Strycova in the quarter finals.

After dropping an hour-long opening set, Pavlyuchenkova appeared to be in deep trouble when she slipped to a 0-2 deficit in the second, but it was then than the powerful Russian began to impose herself on the crafty Czech. Pavlyuchenkova dropped just two games after that, breaking serve five times as she surged to a 5-7 6-3 6-1 victory. It is the sort of devastating run she is very capable of when she finds her range.

Kerber has a narrow 5-4 lead over Pavlyuchenkova on head-to-head, but the Russian edges the rivalry 3-2 on hard courts. Pavlyuchenkova clearly has the power to blow Kerber away, but the German has the movement and the defence to frustrate the Russian into errors- not to mention her brilliant transition from defence to offence. It’s way too early to sing of an Angelique Kerber revival, but her game has been in good working order this week. Kerber has been the more convincing of this semi-final pair- the German is yet to drop a set this week, while Pavlyuchenkova has been dragged to three in each of her three matches. Having already taken down a couple of big-hitters in Tokyo, I very much fancy Kerber to come through this one for her second final of the year.





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Angelique Kerber vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova WTA Tokyo Live Stream: Resurgent Kerber targets second final of the season

Angelique Kerber takes on Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the semi-finals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo on Saturday. Will the resurgent Kerber reach her second final in 2017?

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