Alison Van Uytvanck, the No 2 seed at the Astana Open in Nur-Sultan got the better of top seed and home favourite Yulia Putintseva to lift the trophy on Saturday in Kazakstan, 1-6 6-4 6-3.
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. Alison Van Uytvanck
It took the Belgian 2 hour 20 minutes to get past Putintseva in the Kazakh capital after overcoming her initial nerves and an opponent determined to win the title in front of her home crowd.
“She started off unbelievable without making any mistakes,” Van Uytvanck said after the final. “I was trying to be aggressive, but it was not working.
“I had struggles, 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 net and being more aggressive.”
Putintseva was attempting to win her 3rd career title and 2nd the season, after taking Budapest Open title, while Van Uytvanck after her 5th career title.
Coming into this tight contest, Van Uytvanck had never beaten Putintseva in their previous 4 WTA Tour encounters, nor had she lost a final at this level, but she was dominated by the Kazakh in the first set in which she was broken 3 times and won just 9 points while committing 13 miscues against only 1 winner.
Van Uytvanck’s win seemed an unlikely outcome after that inspiring show by the top seed, which flummoxed the Belgian, but she reset impressively at the start of the second when she immediately broke Putintseva and made it a real contest from then on.
Six games went to deuce, including the final 4, as both stretched the other to the limit.
Van Uytvanck twice led by a break, only to be pegged back until a superb volley captured the Kazakh’s serve for a 3rd time, and she managed to serve out the set after saving 3 break-back points when Putintseva mishit a forehand down set point.
In the decider, Putintseva broke early to go up 2-0, but the World No 89 rallied to break back in the 3rd game and got a 2nd break in the 7th game to take a 4-3 lead after the top seed double-faulted.
Van Uytvanck hit a drop-volley to save a break-back point for 5-3, and then converted her first championship point with a magnificent backhand return.
“I was struggling physically’” she added. “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 Astana Open trophy is Van Uytvanck’s first since winning Tashkent in 2019, and the 27-year old was cheered on by her fiancée Greet Minnen as she turned around a lacklustre year that has seen her struggle with a 7-12 record coming into Nur-Sultan.
As the match progressed, more elements of Van Uytvanck’s game clicked into place, particularly in the forecourt where her volleying skills came into their own as she began to cut through the Putintseva defence.
The result was the top seed eventually became beset by a succession of uncharacteristic groundstroke errors, and simply could not cling on.
In the doubles final, No 3 seeds Anna-Lena Friedsam & Monica Niculescu became the inaugural Nur-Sultan doubles champions after holding off Angelina Gabueva & Anastasia Zakharova, 6-2 4-6 [10-5].
Friedsam & Niculescu led by a break twice in the second set but ultimately needed a match tiebreak to quell the unseeded Russians.
It is Friedsam’s second WTA doubles title following Stuttgart 2019, which she won with Mona Barthel, and Niculescu’s 10th.
The German-Romanian pair had only played one previous tournament together, all the way back at Guangzhou 2015, where they reached the quarter-finals.
For Gabueva & Zakharova, who partnered each other for the first time ever, this week has still been something of a fairytale run.
Gabueva, 32, played her first WTA doubles main draw 15 years ago, at Tashkent 2006, and is a 15-time ITF doubles champion, while Zakharova, 19, had made her WTA singles main draw debut in Gdynia in July, but was contesting a Tour doubles event for the first time.
Nur-Sultan marked a maiden WTA final for both players after a run that began with a first-round upset of No 4 seeds Varvara Gracheva & Oksana Kalashnikova.