Childhood memories of former World No. 1 catalyst for Kazakh star's generosity

30.09.2021    Views: 1129
Source: KTF press-service
Courtney Walsh

Moments after keeping alive hopes of a hometown heroine in the inaugural Astana Open, Yulia Putintseva headed straight to the fans who had supported her during a testing quarterfinal on Thursday.

The Kazakhstan star wore a broad smile after her 6-3 4-6 6-0 triumph over Anastasia Gasanova in 2hr 39min and was keen to reward her supporters.

Throughout her romp in the deciding set, which was at odds with the intensity of the opening two sets, the Astana Open top seed had exhorted the Nur-Sultan crowd to keep supporting her.

On doing so, she was keen to reward them. She handed one young fan her match-winning racket. Another was gifted a towel. For anyone who asked, Putintseva was happy to pose for a «selfie».

The 26-year-old stressed earlier this week how important it was for Kazakhstan to have a tournament of this caliber. She was delighted to be able to celebrate a well-earned success with potential stars of the future.

«It was great to see all the support … especially in the third set when I was down. The crowd started cheering for me, started screaming, so it was pretty cool,» she said.
«I always see those little girls who stand there when you walk off the court and they are so cute. I remember myself, when I was a kid watching those tournaments … I just decided to give them something so that they remember it.
«I hope they will remember this moment and maybe they will play tennis in a few years and do the same to the younger generation, because I think it is important to give those emotions to the kids.»

What spurred the generosity in Putintseva was memories of when she was a little girl attending the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. She remembers being in awe of the talent of those competing and said a gift from former World No. 1 Dinara Safina was a prized treasure in her youth.

«I remember Dinara Safina, she signed my ball when I was a kid,» she said.
«When I was really, really young, we were working with the same fitness coach and she was giving me tickets and I was going to cheer for her.
«Actually, I remember I talked to her once, and she was one of my favorite players, and I remember bringing her a snack or something … when I was six or seven years old.
«It was kind of cute. But now I feel, like, weird (about it).»

The opening two sets of the match between Putintseva and Gasanova were tense. Neither player was at their best. Putintseva said she struggled to find her rhythm. Gasanova had trouble with her serve, which resulted in eight double faults in the opening set. But with the home crowd behind her, and having progressed to her sixth quarterfinal of the year in easier fashion, the Kazakhstan favorite finished far stronger.

«The first two sets I was there, trying to fight, trying to find my rhythm, but honestly the level I was playing was up and down,» Putintseva said.
«It was a little bit frustrating. Then I decided before the third set to go for it and started to move my legs more. I was trying to put a little bit more power there, more movement.
«It helped me turn around the third set and make it look easy.»

Putintseva, who is seeking her second title for the year after winning the WTA 250 Hungarian Grand Prix in July, also reached a semi-final in Slovenia midway through September.

The Kazakh will play Rebecca Peterson for a spot in the final of the Astana Open after the Swede progressed with a hard-fought 6-4 6-7 (7) 6-4 win in 2hr 56min.
Peterson, who is into her third WTA Tour semi-final in 2021, clinched a tight first set when she was able to capitalize on a net cord from her rival that gave her the chance to hit a forehand winner.

After dropping behind early in the second set, Potapova rallied to move to a position to level the match, only to drop serve. Peterson held a match point in the second set tiebreaker but was unable to seize the moment. But the 6th seed was able to reset after dropping to a 2-4 deficit in the deciding set to close out the match.

«It was a very tough battle and I am very happy to be through. It was a super tough win,» she said.
«It was tough losing the second set, as I thought I had it, but I think I got a little bit passive, so I really wanted to change that.
«I have had some really tough matches but I think I am improving my game with every match, and that is the most important thing.»

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