Pavlyuchenkova and Zverev claim UTS titles in sudden death
Sunday evening saw both the women’s and men’s UTS finals take place at the Mouratoglou Academy. In the women’s event Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova came through in Sudden Death to beat Alize Cornet whilst for the men Alexander Zverev bested Felix Auger-Aliassime for a second night in a row, also in Sudden Death, on a dramatic night of action.
Pavlyuchenkova came into the women’s final as the favourite, but Cornet, having beaten 13-year-old Brenda Fruhvirtova in the semis, had the advantage of already winning one mentally tough battle this weekend. The Russian did, however, dominate the opener, allowing Cornet no freebies on her way to a comfortable 16-8 victory.
Cornet earnt a small lead early in the second but failed to secure the advantage and convert with her ‘Winner x3’ card. The ‘Next Point x2’ card proved to be slightly more fruitful but the Frenchwoman’s lead was still only two with 2:24 on the clock. Pavlyuchenkova sent Cornet running around the whole court to reach 10-11 and then hit a blistering backhand right on the line to level the score. Pavlyuchenkova won the deciding point just as the clock hit zero, at which point Cornet asked to use her ‘+40 Second’ card, but was told she was fractionally too late, much to “The Volcano’s” frustration.
Both players appeared to be in a negative headspace early in the third and neither managed to forge a significant lead. The quarter threatened to end in the same manner as the second but Cornet hit a huge forehand to give herself a three-point cushion at the death, negating the need to employ the ‘+40 Second’ card and forcing a welcome fourth.
Early in the final quarter, perhaps feeling the pressure, Pavlyuchenkova wildly missed an overhead that would have been worth two points and Cornet soon after found herself 8-3 up with all of her cards left to play. The lead grew to 11-5 but Pavlyuchenkova’s confidence seemed to rise in the closing stages, perhaps down to the free-flowing play that comes from knowing a quarter is already lost. She had left herself far too much to do, however, and Cornet won the quarter 16-9 and ensured Sudden Death, having come back from two quarters down.
There was no mistake with the overhead from Pavlyuchenkova on the first point but Cornet levelled things thanks to a huge serve. A brave dropshot almost won the match for the Frenchwoman but Pavlyuchenkova ran just ran it down it time before Cornet hit long on the next point, making Anastasia “The Thunder” Pavlyuchenkova the first women’s UTS champion.
The men’s final was a rematch of an encounter that happened yesterday, which Zverev won in Sudden Death. It was the German world no. 7 who took the early lead again in the final, reaching 9-4 by the halfway mark of the first quarter. Tensions flared when the umpire made an overrule decision to give Auger-Aliassime a questionable ace but Zverev channelled his frustrations to hold strong and claim the first quarter 19-10.
In the second quarter it was Auger-Aliassime’s turn to move ahead early on but from 9-4 down Zverev recovered to 9-8 thanks to his ‘Next Point x2’ card. The Canadian led 12-9 with a minute to play but Zverev fought back to 12-11 at which point there were only two seconds on the clock to find the equaliser. It was one point too many, however, as Auger-Aliassime hit a brilliant passing shot to level the match.
In the third, the scores were tied at 8-8 with both players still having their ‘Next Point x2’ card left to play. Zverev struck first, but improved to only 10-9, after which Auger-Aliassime won both of his to lead 13-10. This proved to be a decisive turning point as the 19-year-old claimed the quarter 18-11.
Zverev let out a huge “Come on!” after winning both points against Auger-Aliassime’s ‘Winner x3’ card and pushing ahead to 7-3 in the fourth quarter and he soon made that 9-3 by holding his own service points. Auger-Aliassime fought back to just 10-8 down and with another bit of the ‘Next Point x2’ cherry had a chance to square things up but he overcooked a forehand and that was the last of his chances. Zverev powered though to an 18-8 win and for the third UTS final on the trot Sudden Death would decide who would lift the trophy.
Auger-Aliassime won the first point with a powerful serve and forehand combo but a wild return on the next gave Zverev a match point of his own. After a short rally, Auger-Aliassime netted a backhand, and in a repeat of Saturday evening, it was Zverev who came out on top to become the second UTS men’s champion.
UTS Finals Results:
Pavlyuchenkova d. Cornet 16-8 12-11 11-14 9-16 3-1
Zverev d. Auger-Aliassime 19-10 11-13 11-18 18-8 2-1
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