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Astana Open quarters set in Nur-Sultan

The Astana Open, a WTA 250 event being held in Nur-Sultan, Kazakstan this week, is into its quarter-final stage, with top seed and home hopeful Yulia Puntintseva leading the charge, after a handful of upsets in the second-round action, with Kristina Mladenovic the highest seed to exit the main draw.

She [Simona Halep] is the one who started to show us that it is possible. That gives you confidence. She is a great player, and I always tried to learn something from her. It is really motivating that someone from Romania made it like that, because it is hard. Jaqueline Cristian

Russia’s Anastasia Potapova defeated the Frenchwoman, 1-6 6-4 6-3, in 2 hours 9 minutes to clinch her spot in the quarters where she will meet 6th-seeded Rebecca Peterson from Sweden, who experienced no problem against another home favourite, Zarina Diyas, 6-2 6-2.

Mladenovic started out playing clutch tennis as she raced through the opening set, but then lost her way as her game unravelled across the next 2 sets, and it was the Russian who was able to exert better control over the match.

Potapova’s compatriot, Anastasia Gasanova also scored an upset over 5th seed Ana Konjuh in their second-round match.

Like Potapova, Gasanova, too, came from a set down to win the match, 2-6 7-6(4) 6-2, in 2 hours 36 minutes.

Although Konjuh won more first-serve points, 61% to her opponent’s 56%, Gasanova fared better when it came to winning second-serve points, 53% to the Croat’s 42%.

Gasanova also did well to hold her nerve to win the second set and level the match, and was almost unplayable in the decider, finishing with 112 points to Konjuh’s 106.

Konjuh, who underwent 4 elbow surgeries in the past few years but she has managed to stay healthy for the past year has made her way back to 77 in the world.

She can now travel to Indian Wells where she will replace Sofia Kenin in the main draw after the World No 8 was forced to pull out because of an on-going foot injury and a positive COVID-19 test that kept her out of the US Open.

The 22-year old American has had a tough and disappointing season so far, battling injuries and picking up multiple early exits.

Konjuh’s lone appearance at the Indian Wells Masters came in 2017, when she lost in the second round.

“Obviously I am proud of myself, of what I have done,” Konjuh told the WTA website. “I think we can stop calling it a comeback at this point.

“I just want to stay healthy and prepare for next year and we will see what we can do.”

Konjuh has played lots of matches over the past year as she makes up for the time she lost while off the WTA Tour.

“I started playing at the end of last September in my first ITF, so it has been a long season for me and especially coming off an injury.” she said. “I have played a lot of matches, a lot of tournaments, having to play through qualies, things like that.

“The body is good. The elbow is manageable, I would say. It is never going to be normal again, which I accept.

“It is just a matter of doing the best I can, taking it day by day, just to prepare for each and every match”.

Meanwhile, Gasanova advances to play top seed Yulia Putintseva for a place in the semi-finals.

No 1 seed Putintseva needed an hour and 31 minutes to wrap up a 6-4 6-4 win against Bulgaria’s Vera Lapko, who entered the draw on a special ranking.


Jaqueline Cristian upset No 8 seed Carla Burel at the Astrana Open on Wednesday

Photo by George Kopylov/WTA

Elsewhere, Jaqueline Cristian from Romania posted the last upset of the day against 8th-seeded Clara Burel from France, 6-7(3) 6-1 6-2 in an hour 58 minutes to reach her quarter-final slot.

Cristian, who took another step toward a Top 100 breakthrough, credits World No 1 Simona Halep for inspiring a younger generation of Romanian players.

“She is the one who started to show us that it is possible,” Cristian said. “That gives you confidence.

“She is a great player, and I always tried to learn something from her. It is really motivating that someone from Romania made it like that, because it is hard.”

Cristian, who started the tournament at No 126, will leave Nur-Sultan with a career-high ranking this week regardless of what happens the rest of the way.

“The main thing is to keep myself healthy,” Cristian said. “I know if I work hard enough, I am going to make it one day. I just want to get better every day.”

Next up for Cristian is Aleksandra Krunic after the Serbian qualifier ousted Kaja Juvan from Slovenia, 6-4 6-3, in 69 minutes.

At the bottom of the draw at the Astana Open, 7th seed Varvara Gracheva will play 2nd-seeded Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium in the quarters after the Russian came through against Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko, 6-2 6-4.





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