Dubai: Wild card entrant Yulia Putintseva sent Great Britain’s Laura Robson packing out of the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open in a fighting display in their first round encounter on centre court late on Monday.
Putintseva, one year junior to the 19-year-old British No 1, won 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (6) to set up a mouth-watering clash against defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska.
Robson, who reached a career high of No 43 at the end of last month, looked set to take the tie when she fought off from a 2-5 deficit in the deciding third set to level terms at 5-5. But she was too error prone in the tie-breaker giving away a host of points to the 18-year-old Kazakh, who is ranked a distant No 97.
Robson is one of the poster girls of British tennis having appeared at least once in the main draw of ever Grand Slam. Her biggest success came at the US Open last year where she made the fourth round to be ultimately named the ‘WTA Newcomer of the Year 2012’.
In contrast, Putintseva has two finals in the junior Grand Slams: 2012 Australian Open and the 2010 US Open.
Earlier in the day, former world number one Ana Ivanovic and wild card entry Marion Bartoli were among the big winners on the opening day.
Ivanovic weathered off a late surge from former multiple junior Grand Slam champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova before winning 6-3, 7-6 (5) on centre court, while Bartoli justified her wild card entry as the 28-year-old staged a late recovery before winning 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 against Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic in nearly two hours.
Ivanovic was relieved at just going through the late surge put up by Pavlyuchenkova. “It was very tough. She was striking the ball a lot deeper and harder. But I am really happy I managed to stay in that match and finish it in two sets. It was a good effort,” Ivanovic said.
The Serbian beauty will now get a day’s off to recover before she meets the winner of the match between Petra Kvitova and Daniela Hantuchova. “I am just happy to win in two sets so I can regenerate more and hopefully take it easy and try to be ready for the next one,” she said.
And now that she has started winning again, Ivanovic even fancies her chances in getting back to the top of women’s tennis. “It’s been my goal for a while now and I really want to break into the top-10 again,” she said.
“I really feel I have the game, but I just haven’t been consistent enough, especially against the top players,” Ivanovic added.
Stephens – who stunned World No.1 Serena Williams in last month’s Australian Open quarter-finals to rise to a career high No.16 this week – did not see too much into this latest setback in her fledgling career.
Last week in Doha, the 19-year-old Stephens lost to Klara Zakopalova in the third round of the Qatar Open. “Last week I served awful. I mean, I haven’t served at all because of my abdomen. I wouldn’t say last week was bad as I played a really good match last week. I wouldn’t say that it was a terrible week for me. I lost, still played really well and that’s how it kinda goes sometimes,” Stephens said.
“This week I was a little bit frustrated, but I wouldn’t pinpoint one thing and say, Oh, I lost because of this because that’s not what happened,” she added.
Sorana Cirstea and Su-Wei Hsieh were the other two to advance on the opening day, though in contrasting ways.
Cirstea packed off American sensation Sloane Stephens in three sets 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, while Chinese Taipei’s Hsieh overcame Varvara Lepchenko 6-1, 6-3.