Van Uytvanck Wins Astana Open, Perfect In WTA Finals

Alison van Uytvanck (photo: Kazakhstan Tennis Federation)

NUR-SULTAN/WASHINGTON, October 2, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

While it’s hard to pinpoint a specific moment during the two-hour and 20-minute final of the inaugural WTA Astana Open in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, that made the difference between winning and losing, one that stood out came during the final set in an afternoon filled with little margin for error.

At 3-all, 40-ad, top-seeded Yulia Putintseva double-faulted on break point and it gave No. 2 seed Alison van Uytvanck the break she had been looking for. While it was her fifth of six break points she would record against the top seed from Kazakhstan, the 89th-ranked van Uytvanck of Belgium went ahead 4-3 after earlier trailing 0-2, and she immediately consolidated the break. Then, she broke the No. 47 Putintseva, again, to wrap up a 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 title victory. It was the culmination of a satisfying week in the Kazakhstan capital city for the victor.

It was the Belgian’s fifth title in five WTA tour-level finals – four of them indoors and all of them in three sets. It was also the first time in five meetings that van Uytvanck had beaten Putintseva. Meanwhile, Putintseva was seeking her third career title and first in her home country. One player’s joy was certainly another’s disappointment.

While van Uytvanck was outpointed 92-84, winners were even at 17 and each broke the other six times. So, the double fault the temperamental Putintseva committed with the match on the line in the third set – it was one of four she hit – loomed large in an otherwise very evenly played final. It was quite the turn around for the quiet, easy-going van Uytvanck, who won just nine points in the opening set while committing 13 unforced errors and hitting just one winner.

During a post-match interview before the trophy ceremony, van Uytvanck said of Putintseva and the final: “She started off unbelievable without making any mistakes. I was trying to be aggressive but it was not working. I had struggles – I stayed aggressive – but I tried to be positive and get myself into the match. Even the second set was tight, but I felt more comfortable coming into the net and being more aggressive. That was the key. …

“Third set down, I was struggling physically; I kept saying to myself, ‘It’s the last set, push it, push it, push it.’ I didn’t expect winning today and I just gave everything. I’m so tired but so happy.”

The title was the 27-year-old van Uytvanck’s first on the WTA main tour since winning in 2019 at Tashkent. She arrived at Nur-Sultan sporting a 7-12 win-loss record this season in WTA tour-level events. En route to winning the champion’s trophy, van Uytvanck defeated wild card Zhibek Kulambayeva of Kazakhstan, Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany, No. 7 seed Varvara Gracheva of Russia, Jaqueline Cristian of Romania and Putintseva.

Friedsam and Niculescu win doubles title

No. 3 seeds Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany and Monica Niculescu of Romania won the inaugural Astana Open doubles title. They defeated unseeded Angelina Gabueva and Anastasia Zakharova, both of Russia, 6-2, 4-6, 10-5.

While Friedsam and Niculescu twice were a break up in the second set, it took a match tie-break to decide the outcome. Friedsam and Niculescu outpointed their opponents 67-50.

It was Friedsam’s second WTA doubles title following her 2019 triumph with fellow German Mona Barthel at Stuttgart and the 10th doubles title for Niculescu. The German-Romanian duo had paired once before, at Guangzhou in 2015, where they were quarterfinalists.