Tashkent | Van Uytvanck outlasts Cirstea in final
Alison Van Uytvanck won her 2nd title of the season on Saturday in a keenly fought final at the Tashkent Open against Sorana Cirstea.
The Belgian prevailed 6-2 4-6 6-4 after nearly 2 and a half hours.
Van Uytvanck has been rampant this week en route to the title match, dropping just 18 games and no sets in her 4 previous matches, and brought this form to bear in a dominant opening set.
Taking the ball early and deploying her extensive variety, the 25-year-old dictated with flashy flat forehand winners, elegant volleys and well-disguised drop-shots that died on contact with the court.
Breaking in the opening game and then again in the 7th, a 76% first serve percentage helped ensure that Van Uytvanck would not have to face a break point herself in an opening act in which she conjured up 11 winners to just 4 unforced errors.
Cirstea, competing in her first final since Toronto 2013, demonstrated impressive battling qualities to turn around 2 mini marathon games in the opening stages of the second set.
The Romanian survived a 0-40 hole to avoid falling behind a set and a break, and then, powering through her groundstrokes as the Van Uytvanck forehand began to misfire, came through 5 deuces before capturing her first break point of the match with a sharp volley in the very next game.
The remainder of the set found Van Uytvanck struggling to rediscover her initial form, with her first serve percentage plummeting to 45% and her unforced errors mounting to 18.
As Cirstea attempted to close it out, there were flashes of a Van Uytvanck revival as a series of down-the-line winners saw her break the Romanian back, but it was a false dawn, as another flurry of mistakes saw her immediately in trouble serving to stay in the set.
An ill-advised serve-and-volley attempt down set point went awry, and Van Uytvanck had conceded her first set of the week.
The 2015 Roland Garros quarter-finalist now found herself in a match poised on the knife edge, and needed to summon all her battling qualities to come out on top.
Two epic tussles at the start of the decider proved crucial and, this time, it was Van Uytvanck who took them.
In an 11-minute second game, Cirstea made her way to break point 6 times and, somehow, Van Uytvanck came up with some of her finest serves and biggest forehands to fend off each one before holding after 10 deuces.
Van Uytvanck showed off her greater range to supreme effect in the next game, drawing gasps with a leaping backhand winner en route to breaking Cirstea after another 4 deuces.
The 29-year-old Cristea valiantly clung on, striking 29 winners to stay within touching distance and was very nearly rewarded in a dramatic final game as Van Uytvanck attempted to serve out the title.
Throwing everything at the match in a bid to extend it, Cirstea thwarted 4 match points, 2 in spectacular style with a backhand winner driven into the corner and a swashbuckling drive volley.
Van Uytvanck, however, who tallied 34 winners of her own, was not to be denied, and a bold net approach on her 5th championship point finally elicited a mistake from her opponent.
Having sealed her fourth WTA trophy, a delighted Van Uytvanck celebrated with a kiss for girlfriend and doubles partner Greet Minnen.
It is the first time Van Uytvanck has won two titles in a season and she moves to 4-0 in career WTA finals.
Her first title of 2019 came with a successful defence of the Budapest title in February.
The 29-year-old Cirstea had won both of her previous meetings with Van Uytvanck, and was seeking her first tour-level title since winning in Tashkent 11 years ago.