We're counting down the Top 5 WTA matches of 2017: No.5 is Kristina Mladenovic's seesawing epic against a pugnacious Yulia Putintseva in the championship match of the St. Petersburg Ladies Open.
WTA Staff
November 13, 2017

To mark the end of an incredible 2017 season, we're counting down the Top 5 WTA matches of the year: 

No.5 is Kristina Mladenovic's seesawing epic against a pugnacious Yulia Putintseva in the championship match of the St. Petersburg Ladies Open.

WHAT HAPPENED:

Few had expected the final of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy in February to be contested by Kristina Mladenovic and Yulia Putintseva - but that didn't stop the unseeded pair from putting on one of the year's finest finals, and a match that sparked the Frenchwoman's eventual ascent to the Top 10.

Read more: Match report: Mladenovic majestic for maiden WTA title, outlasts Putintseva in classic

It was the powerful Mladenovic who dominated at the outset, striking winners from all corners of the court while also showing off her net prowess and backhand dropshot - a shot that would become something of a trademark in coming months. She swiftly leapt out to a 6-2, 5-2 lead - having not dropped her serve to this point.

The pugnacious Putintseva has a tendency to peak when seemingly overpowered, though, and as she dug her heels in and chipped away at Mladenovic's lead, the match heated up. Suddenly, it was the Kazakh sprinting all over the court to nail passing shots and executing deft dropshots.

Neither player had won a WTA title so far in their careers - indeed, Putintseva was playing in her maiden final. Mladenovic, on the other hand, had three final defeats to her name (Strasbourg 2015 to Samantha Stosur, 's-Hertogenbosch 2016 to CoCo Vandeweghe and Hong Kong 2016 to Caroline Wozniacki) - and she was unable to seal her first trophy in the second set despite serving for it twice as Putintseva roared back, pumping her first and exhorting the crowd all the way.

Gathering herself, Mladenovic again moved to within one game of the title in the deciding set - but staring down the barrel of a 1-5 deficit only served to fire Putintseva up once more. Twice more, Mladenovic served for the title. If anything, Putintseva's response was even more electric as she saved four championship points - three with audacious return winners and one with a stunning pass.

But Mladenovic didn't falter as she stepped up to the line for the fifth time - and a huge forehand down the line sealed her first WTA title.

WHAT THEY SAID:

"I have no words, really, to express what I feel right now," Mladenovic said after the match. "This win means a lot to me. It was my fourth final, and I'd lost three before that. The wait was definitely worth it because this tournament is just amazing, from the organization all week to the show at the end.

"It was amazing getting to face so many top players, and clinching my first WTA title here, especially at a Premier event, I feel absolutely happy right now."

Read more: Insider Podcast: Spasibo St. Petersburg! Mladenovic and Putintseva pull of 2017's best final

To WTA Insider, she added: "I believe everyone is limitless, and it's just about moving forward with the mentality. Physically, I felt great, though sometimes the nerves made my legs feel heavy. But it came down to fighting spirit.

"This is what I love most about sports, and what pushes me to be on the court; the more complicated things get, the more I think how much I love this and how much I want to keep battling."

WHAT IT MEANS:

It was to be the start of a stellar first half of 2017 for the Frenchwoman, who would reach a further three finals in Acapulco, Stüttgart and Madrid as well as the semifinals in Indian Wells and a second Grand Slam quarterfinal in front of her home crowd at Roland Garros. Through Wimbledon, she would compile a 37-16 win-loss record and almost double her total of career Top 10 wins, from six to 11.

By contrast, Putintseva was unable to repeat her St. Petersburg heroics over the rest of the year: she would reach just two further quarterfinals, with no more at Premier level, and would fall out of the Top 50 by year-end.