Birmingham | Putintseva trumps Tomljanovic to lift WTA 250 title

Yulia Putintseva lifted her first grass court trophy on Sunday at the Rothesay Classic, with a 6-1 7-6(8) win over Ajla Tomljanovic in a final between the two unseeded players at the WTA 250 event in Birmingham.

It was a great game. I started so well, and then Ajla dialled up her level to the highest. She was playing really amazing, not giving me any time to think or to do something. The game was even in the end, and I was a bit more lucky. Yulia Putintseva

It is Putintseva’s 3rd career title, her previous two coming on clay courts, in Nurnberg in 2019 and Budapest in 2021, while she had been the runner-up in 3 other hard court finals, but she took home the winner’s trophy on grass after the 1 hour 28 minute contest, coming from 3-5 down, and saving 2 set points in the second set in the process.

“I don’t know what I’m feeling because I wasn’t expecting this at all,” Putintseva said later. “It’s great, and it’s confusing, because I’ve always been good on clay, but now, all of a sudden, I’m good on grass. I’ll take that! It’s great!

“It was a great game. I started so well, and then Ajla dialled up her level to the highest. She was playing really amazing, not giving me any time to think or to do something.

“The game was even in the end, and I was a bit more lucky.”

Ajla Tomljanovic led 5-3 in the second set but could not stop Yulia Putintseva from taking the title in straight sets.

© Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA

Tomljanovic was contesting her first tour-level singles final in 5 years, and now has dropped to 0-5 in career finals with the loss, plus she has also lost 5 of 6 career matches against Putintseva.

Nevertheless, it was an encouraging week for the Australian, a former World No 32 who came into Birmingham ranked 190 after missing most of 2023 following knee surgery, and now rises to 135 following her run to the final.

Also, she was contesting just her 4th tournament since undergoing a procedure in the winter to remove ovarian cysts.

Putintseva acknowledged the adversity that Tomljanovic has faced in her victory speech.

“It’s great to see you back after everything you’ve been through with all your injuries,” she said. “You deserve this title as much as I do… today I was stronger, but hopefully, we have a lot more to come.”

Putintseva is just the second unseeded champion in Birmingham in the last 10 years, joining Beatriz Haddad Maia’s title run in 2022.

As for Tomljanovic, the 2-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist will walk through the gates at the All England Club in another significant step towards overcoming the fear she has felt on the court over the past 12 months.

“Some stuff is out of my hands but I feel, like, I have to give myself a break because it is coming together nicely in some ways,” she said. “I feel, like, coming in, I talked about my body [and] considered [it was in a] bad place, but then I have played pretty good tennis considering how little I’ve played.”

Wimbledon is where she has played her best, and she is looking forward to reuniting with friends and former teammates, including Ash Barty, who will partner Casey Dellacqua in the Legends Doubles, much to the amusement of Tomljanovic.

“How good will that be?” she said. “They could be the best legends pairing ever. They are probably better than half the main draw now.

“I mean, I don’t know if that’s even fair, that she’s playing legends. She is half their age.

“I don’t think all the other legends are thrilled about it, but I’m really excited to see her, and her baby. It’ll be awesome.

“I love going back there because it just reminds me of amazing memories. I think the older I’m getting, the more I appreciate the fact that I’ve played at Wimbledon for so many years.”

The 31-year old has been dogged by injuries, from a serious shoulder injury that threatened her career in her early 20s to the knee problem that prevented her from playing in the first 3 Grand Slams of 2023, and, this year, she faced the surgery to remove uterine tumours in February, but she has now found a welcome return to form in Birmingham this week.

Yulia Putintseva breezed through the first set and found herself behind in the second but prevailed over Ajla Tomljanovic in Sunday's final at the Edgbaston Priory Club

© Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA

Meanwhile, 29-year old Putintseva, who rises to No 34 in the rankings this week, may be diminutive, but she packs a punch, and relishes a chance to dance on the changeovers when the right music comes on.

Making her first victory speech in 3 years, she wasn’t going to relinquish the microphone too quickly.

After recapping her victory, talking tactics, congratulating Tomljanovic on a notable result of her own, thanking fans, tournament staff, and her team, Putintseva was not yet ready to be played off.

“Can I keep going?” she asked, still wanting to thank her parents, the Kazakh tennis federation, and her coach Matteo Donati.

“You’re the winner,” Naomi Broady, the on-court interviewer, said. “You can do whatever you want!”

Putintseva wanted a party.

“Champagne to everyone!” she declared, before adding that she was not ready to part with any of her hard-earned champion’s cheque of $20,830. “Not on me! LTA pays!”

The title was the latest in a series of strong showings for the resurgent Kazakh this year.

In late February, the former World No 27 was ranked 80, but a 4th-round effort in Indian Wells, and quarter-finals in Miami and Madrid, have put her back on the upswing, as she looks to extend her winning streak in Bad Homburg ahead of Wimbledon.

“What a week!” she captioned her celebratory Instagram post, with the hashtag #grasscourtspecialist.

Birmingham champion Yulia Putintseva (L) and Ajla Tomljanovic (R) pose with their trophies after the final

© Darren Staples/AFP via Getty Images

In the doubles final, Taipei’s Hsieh Su-Wei & Elise Mertens from Belgium, the top seeds, made light work of Japan’s Miyu Kato & Zhang Shuai, 6-1 6-3.

The No 1 seeds dominated the competition, dropping just 13 games in the 4 matches they played at the Edgbaston Priory Club this week.

Doubles champions Hsieh Su-wei (L) & Elise Mertens enjoy their win after defeating Zhang Shuai & Miyu Kato in the final

© Darren Staples/AFP via Getty Images



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