Putintseva To Face Van Uytvanck In Astana Open Final

Yulia Putintseva (photo: Kazakhstan Tennis Federation)

WASHINGTON, October 2, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

No. 2 seed Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium defeated first-time semifinalist Jaqueline Cristian of Romania to reach her fifth career WTA final – and fourth indoors – on Friday at the inaugural WTA 250 Astana Open in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

The 89th-ranked Van Uytvanck’s 6-3, 6-3 victory in an hour and 16 minutes lifted her into Saturday’s final against No. 1 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, who defeated No. 6 seed Rebecca Peterson of Sweden, 6-2, 6-4, in one hour and 43 minutes Van Uytvanck, whose last appearance in a tour-level final was in 2019, is 4-0 in tour-level title matches. However, Putintseva leads the career head-to-head against van Uytvanck 4-0.

In a matchup of aggressive hitters, Van Uytvanck hit just 11 winners but took advantage of five service breaks against the 126th-ranked Cristian plus 43 unforced errors. She outpointed her opponent 67-48.

“It was kind of tough, I didn’t feel super comfortable in the beginning,” said van Uytvanck during an off-court interview after her win. “I thought I was pretty nervous. I’m happy to be through because [Jaqueline] started to play really well from 5-1 down. I just happy I could hold my last service game. To be through to the final is amazing here in Nur-Sultan.”

Van Uytvanck has strung together wins over wild card Zhibek Kulambayeva of Kazakhstan, Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany, No. 7 seed Varvara Gracheva of Russia and Cristian, dropping just a set along the way, to reach Saturday’s final.

Meanwhile, the 47th-ranked Putintseva needed three match points to cross the finish line against No. 86 Peterson and reach her fifth career final and second of this season. While it was sense of relief for her after Peterson netted the final ball during their semifinal, still a 30th victory of the season represented an incredibly proud moment for Putintseva to reach the title match in her home country. Since Wimbledon, she’s 16-8 with a title victory in Budapest, a semifinal finish in Potoroz and a quarterfinal reached in San Jose.

On Friday, Putintseva outpointed Peterson 71-55 in back of 17 winners and broke her opponent five times in eight opportunities. Although the Swede hit 20 winners, she committed 45 unforced errors and converted just two of eight break points. En route to the final, she’s beaten Ekaterine Gorgodze of Georgia, Vera Lapko of Belarus, Anastasia Gasanova of Russia and Peterson.

Putintseva showed her appreciation for the Nur-Sultan crowd – many of them youngsters – who came out to cheer for her. She rewarded them by spending a solid five minutes cheerfully signing autographs and taking selfies – and even rewarded one lucky fan by giving away her tennis racquet – before leaving the National Tennis Center main court for an off-court TV interview.

“It’s very special, it’s very cool,” she said. “First tournament at home, first final and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Saturday’s final between the top two seeds is the first in the WTA since last year at Linz, when Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus beat Belgium’s Elise Mertens.

Muguruza reaches fourth WTA semifinal of season

No. 2 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain was pushed to five match points before she put away her opponent, 200th-ranked qualifier Mai Hontama of Japan, 6-3, 6-2, to reach the semifinal round of the WTA 500 Chicago Fall Tennis Classic on Friday. Hontama, we, was appearing in her first WTA main draw this week in Chicago.

The victory advanced the former World No. 1 and two-time major winner Muguruza into her fourth semifinal of the season and first since March at Dubai. On Saturday, she will face unseeded Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic. The 41st-ranked Vondrousova, this year’s Olympic singles silver medalist, upset No. 10 seed Danielle Collins of the United States, 6-7 (4), 6-0, 7-6 (3), aided by 26 winners and six breaks of her opponent’s serve. She’s also into her fourth WTA semifinal of the season. Muguruza and Vondrousova met in January during the semifinals of the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne, won by the Spaniard, 6-1, 6-0.

Meanwhile, No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia eliminated top seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, 6-4, 6-2, in an hour and 22 minutes in back of hitting 28 winners and breaking the Olympic singles bronze medalist’s serve four times in 13 opportunities. She also saved 11 of the 12 break points she faced. It ended Svitolina’s seven-match winning streak in Chicago, which began last month during the Chicago Women’s Open, and it was the first time Jabeur had beaten the Ukrainian in four tour-level tries.

“I’ve known Elina since we were juniors, and also I’ve never won against her on the pro tour, so it was a very important match for me, since I’ve had my chances before,” Jabeur said during press.

Down 4-1 in the opening set, the 16th-ranked Jabeur won nine straight games en route to her 43rd victory of the season. She outpointed the World No. 6 Svitolina 73-62. Next, Jabeur will face No. 5 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan. The World No. 17 advanced after No. 3 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland retired with a knee injury in the second set with Rybakina ahead 6-4, 3-1.

The Way Back Machine / Steffi Graf, 1988

By the numbers

Ons Jabeur’s 6-4, 6-2 quarterfinal round victory over World No. 6 Elina Svitolina at the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic Friday afternoon was her fifth Top 10 victory of the season.

“Quotable …”

“I knew she was good. I saw her playing when she was only 15 against my girlfriend and I was like, ‘Woah. She is already hitting clean and has a good head on the court, a good mentality.’

“I knew that playing her was a tough match. It was a good match. But I didn’t expect her to win the US Open, though. I thought she was going to win it maybe two or three years but not, like, immediately. But it is great. It is nice to see her grow after what happened at Wimbledon.”

Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium, quoted by the Astana Open website, in describing US Open champion Emma Raducanu.

What they’re sharing on social media

Yaroslava Shvedova / Golden set girl calls it a day