van Uytvanck's perfect record remains after Nur-Sultan thriller

03.10.2021    Views: 1016
Source: KTF press-service
Courtney Walsh

Alison van Uytvanck has maintained her perfect record in WTA Tour finals by upsetting local favorite Yulia Putintseva in a thrilling conclusion to the inaugural Astana Open held in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
The Belgian star claimed her fifth WTA Tour title when defeating the Astana Open top seed Putinseva 1-6 6-4 6-3 in a quality final lasting 2hr 20min on Saturday.
It is van Uytvanck’s first title since a success in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in September, 2019. The 27-year-old has also won the Hungarian Open twice and claimed her first title in Quebec in 2017.
It is a performance to remember for van Uytvanck, not least because it is the first WTA Tour tournament played in Kazakhstan.
The second seed also notched her first win over Putintseva from five outings, in the process denying the hometown favorite what would have been a treasured success at home.
«Leaving this week with another title, it feels special, because I never thought I would have won this one,» van Uytvanck said.
«It feels maybe one of the more special ones, also because I have never beaten her in another match. To beat her on home soil, a player I have never beaten, in a final, it really means a lot to me.»
The champion arrived in Nur-Sultan with the aim of stringing some victories together after a testing season which had resulted in her ranking dropping to 89.
Her form improved through the week as her confidence rose.
But when Putintseva, who won the Hungarian Grand Prix in July, strung together six games in succession with some brilliant tennis to clinch the first set, van Uytvanck’s hopes looked forlorn.
Instead she responded magnificently. The match tightened in the second set as van Uytvanck’s level rose, with the Belgian lifting the pressure on Putintseva.
She was able to clinch the pivotal break late in the second set and made a decisive move again deep in the decider to post a memorable win.
«Yulia played unbelievable in the first set, so I was feeling the pressure. But I just kept believing in myself, trying to stay aggressive, be positive and tried to fight for every point,» she said.
«I went to the bathroom (at the end of the first set) and I was thinking, ‘I am not even playing that bad. What is happening?’
«She was just playing unbelievable. Passing me at the net. I was trying to stay aggressive but she was not missing at all.
«I was like, ‘OK. If she keeps playing this way, I can just take my bags to the airport and go home.’ But I fought for every point and, you know what, it is still tennis and it can turn around easily. That is what I did.»
With her coach Ann Devries providing advice remotely throughout the week, her girlfriend  Greet Minnen also provided tips during training sessions after her own singles tournament ended.
As a result of her success, van Uytvanck will rise to a ranking just outside the top 50. She will head back to Belgium for a break before returning to the tour later this month.
«I think my body needs rest. I really felt in the final that I need a rest. I will go home and take a few days off,» she said.
«I will have two or three more tournaments and try to finish the season like I did today.»
Putintseva performed well for much of the week but was disappointed not to claim a second title for the season, particularly given the significance of the tournament being played on her home soil.
She said a concentration lapse early in the second set proved costly as it boosted the confidence of her rival.
«I started very well and then just dropped my concentration a little bit and that was enough for Alison to pick it up in the match,» she said.
«I think it was a great final, anyway. I was trying my best and doing everything I could to stay in the match.
«Alison did a little bit better today. Sometimes she was a little bit luckier. Sometimes she had more patience. That is it.»
Putintseva, who will leave on Sunday to play at Indian Wells, believes the past week has demonstrated that Nur-Sultan deserves to host more WTA Tour events in the future.
«In my opinion if this tournament keeps on going, it will be one of the best tournaments I have ever played, especially as a 250 event,» she said.
«If they are going to have it next year, I am really looking forward to that.»

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