No.5 seed Yulia Putintseva kicked off play at the Taiwan Open with a straight-set victory over Japanese qualifier Junri Namigata.
David Kane
January 29, 2018

TAIPEI CITY, Chinese Taipei - No.5 seed Yulia Putintseva survived a hard-fought second set to secure a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Japanese qualifier Junri Namigata to reach the second round of the Taiwan Open.

"It's better than to lose the first match of the tournament!" she joked when asked about the pressure of opening main draw play on Stadium court.

Putintseva made her first WTA final this time last year when she finished runner-up at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy.

"It's good to be indoors sometimes, because most of the year we're outside, so it's nice not to worry about rain delays, or anything like that. You know if you're scheduled for 12PM, you go on at 12. That's pretty good!"

Returning to Chinese Taipei after pushing Venus Williams at the event's Kaohsiung location in 2016, she put on a dominant display for a set and a half before Namigata kept things closer towards the finish line.

Trailing by a set and a double break, the Japanese veteran saved a game point that would have given Putintseva a 4-0 lead, and again battled back as the young Kazakh edged towards the brink of 5-2, finally leveling at 4-4 after an exhausting eighth game.

A former French Open quarterfinalist, Putintseva steadied her nerve to break back and serve out the win in one hour and 36 minuts, striking four aces and 29 winners to just 17 unforced errors in total.

"I think I was moving pretty good today I was trying to play my game, play rallies, trying to finish when I can. In the end, it worked good for me."

Up next for the No.5 seed will be Chang Kai-Chen, who stunned then-No.1 Dinara Safina back at the 2009 Toray Pan Pacific Open. She beat Lee Ya-Hsuan 7-5, 6-2.

In the day's other matches, Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine beat Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-4, Duan Ying-Ying beat Miyu Kato 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, and Zarina Diyas beat Anna Blinkova 6-2, 7-5. Monica Niculescu also progressed when leading Ons Jabeur 6-1, 4-0, as the Tunisian retired from the match.

More to come...