The opening match of the World Group II play-off tie between Canada and Kazakhstan went the way of the visiting nation in Montreal, where Yulia Putintseva beat a resilient Bianca Andreescu 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
The world number 31 player Putintseva showed her quality against 16-year-old Andreescu (no. 188 in the WTA). The emerging Canadian gave a good account of herself on Saturday, but couldn’t keep Kazakhstan from taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series. The victorious nation over two days of competition moves up a level in ITF’s top women’s international team competition.
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Winning the first six points of the match, including two from Putintseva’s first service game, Andreescu showed her 22-year-old opponent she’d be trouble right from the start. The experienced Kazakh though regrouped and eventually won the set on the strength of converting two break points to one for Andreescu.
The Canadian marched out to a 2-0 lead in the second set when Putintseva uncharacteristically double faulted resulting in a break for Andreescu, who then consolidated to lead 3-0 on serve. That breathed new life into the Canadian partisans at STADE IGA.
Refusing to fold, Putintseva’s pinpoint placement – particularly on the backhand during key moments – in the next three games allowed her to pull level at 3-3. That newfound momentum for Kazakhstan in the second set was short-lived as Andreescu regained composure and got another break point while up 5-4 to level the match one set apiece.
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The third set was every bit as competitive as the first two, with Andreescu closing in after conceding two break points. Putintseva had a chance to close out the match on serve up 5-2, but Andreescu had other ideas, clawing back to take the break, and then holding serve at love for the second time on the day to pull Putintseva to within one. On her next opportunity to end the affair on serve, Putintseva delivered for Kazakhstan with an approach shot that forced Andreescu to return wide, concluding the gruelling two hour, 43 minute contest.
An efficient Putintseva landed 71% of her first serves to 59% for Andreescu. Kazakhstan’s top women’s player also limited her unforced errors to 26 versus 56 for the teenage Canadian.
Andreescu played a scrappy match that at one juncture could’ve gone either way. She pushed Putintseva in virtually every game, while hitting 32 winners. However, Putintseva’s technical proficiency gained over years of high level tour play won the day.
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Battling from behind, Canada will now look to Francoise Abanda for redemption in the second Saturday match, where she faces world no. 51 Yaroslava Shvedova. Abanda is ranked 186th by WTA.
The singles opponents will switch on Sunday with Abanda facing Putintseva, followed by Andreescu versus Shvedova, before the doubles contest concludes the tie.
All matches are being streamed live on Sportsnet Now nationally, and shown on TVA2 in Quebec.