GUANGZHOU, China – No.5 seed Yulia Putinseva secured her place in the final of the Guangzhou International Women's Open with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Bernarda Pera.
It meant that the WTA World No.61 gained a measure of revenge for a 7-6(6), 6-4 defeat that the American had delivered to her a matter of weeks ago in the US Open, while also securing her place in the showpiece against Wang Qiang, who had earlier beaten Andrea Petkovic, 6-2, 6-2.
Pera came into this match leading the way in terms of serving power of the semifinalists, having notched up 12 aces to this point. Yet she struggled to master her delivery in the early stages, with her first-serve percentage collapsing to below 40 in the middle part of the opening set.
With the door left ajar, Putintseva was happy to push through to secure a couple of early breaks.
Pera responded by winning one of these back, but even as she started to make her mark more regularly in the fifth, Putintseva’s durability allowed her to respond immediately following a lengthy game that went to deuce on three occasions.
And so the pattern would continue. Putintseva was continually able to absorb enough of her bigger-hitting opponent’s pressure to draw errors and had a particular knack for being able to do so in the key moments.
If the 6-1 score was flattering, it was telling that as Pera was broken for the fourth time she delivered a double fault on the first point before lamely dumping a drop shot into the net as the Kazakh claimed the opener.
It took until the second game of the second set for Pera to hold serve, yet even that proved an ordeal as she squandered four points to see it out, including three straight from 40-0 up, and then had to survive a couple of break points. After four deuces, it was finally hers.
This proved a building block to an improved period from the WTA World No.82. After squandering two break points in the following game, she was not so profligate in the fifth.
But just as it seemed that the momentum had shifted towards her, three narrow misses in the space of 75 seconds brought up three opportunities to level for Putintseva. The first two were missed, but on the third Pera’s accuracy was again found marginally wanting.
And with that break, the pendulum swung back in the higher-ranked player’s favour. After holding, she crafted two match points, the second of which was taken as Pera, just as at the same moment in the first set, sent a drop into the net.
The tremendous roar that greeted her victory signified that she had booked her place in a second career final - the first since she was beaten by Kristina Mladenovic in St Petersburg more than 18 months ago - and all without dropping a set this week.