The 2017 St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy will produce a brand new WTA champion on Sunday after Kristina Mladenovic and Yulia Putintseva both produced come-from-behind wins to reach the final. Mladenovic defeated this week’s surprise package, Natalia Vikhlyantseva, 4-6 6-2 6-2. The first set was closely contested with Mladenovic losing her way at the end with some errors. However, the Frenchwoman came back impressively, using her variety much more effectively as Vikhlyantseva’s plight faded rather rapidly.
Vikhlyantseva is definitely one to watch out for this year and into the future. Her backhand is 😍😍😍
Mladenovic hadn’t won a singles match on the WTA tour in 2017 before St. Petersburg but is now into a 4th WTA final. I’ve always been a big fan of her game, which i’ve always felt is one of the most complete on tour. She’s a brilliant doubles player but has never consistently managed to implement those strengths into her single game. 2016 was a rough year in singles where confidence was clearly at a low ebb. Despite not the most promising of starts down under, Mladenovic’s quality has shone through this week in Russia.
Putintseva is into a first WTA final with back-to-back top ten wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dominika Cibulkova… not too shabby! Putintseva fought back from a set down and *2-4 down in the final set, winning the last four games in a 3-6 6-4 6-4 victory. Putintseva has a very resourceful game, hitting with delicate angles and bucket loads of variety. She’s certainly a character on court – I thought she managed to keep a lid on her emotions in this match, better than i’ve seen in the past!
For Cibulkova, who I believe may have been slightly under-the-weather, this was another match that got away in 2017. Cibulkova had looked sharp in the first set and while she did appear to tire, she was still in control in the third set, up a break. Breaking down Putintseva became more challenging as the match wore on and in the end, it was Cibulkova’s backhand that crumbled in the final game. These types of matches are where Cibulkova excelled in 2016. The early signs this year are that her confidence has taken a bit of a hit. Perhaps the elevated ranking is creating more pressure?
Mladenovic and Putintseva are tied at 2-2 in their head-to-head. All four matches were decided in straight sets and it was Putintseva who won their most recent match in Indian Wells last year, 6-4 6-4. I’m completely undecided with this match. It feels like Mladenovic’s time to win a first title but I really do like the way Putintseva is playing. Who you got?
In Taipei City, the final will be contested between Elina Svitolina and Peng Shuai. After saving four match points in her quarter-final win over Ons Jabeur, Svitolina had a far smoother semi-final win over a fading, Mandy Minella, 6-3 6-2. Recovering from a slow start, Svitolina won nine games on the trot and sealed the match with a stunning final service game. Svitolina’s serving stats were mightily impressive as she hit seven aces and won 100% of points behind her first serve in the second set.
It was interesting to see Svitolina talk with her coach, Andrew Bettles on one of the changeovers midway through the first set. He advised her to stop feeding Minella’s forehand and to be more aggressive. It’s obviously a tactic that Svitolina is working towards as she often gets passive on court but she seemed to take on board his advice and preceded to not drop a game for quite sometime!
Peng is into her second WTA final in the last five months with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Lucie Safarova. It was a pretty even match early on but as it unfolded, Peng was a little more consistent and Safarova just missed too many returns. The return is something that Lucie has struggled with over the past few years and she wasn’t able to find a balance today between being aggressive and finding the court. It was a shame as it was Lucie’s 30th birthday today but still, an encouraging week.
And Happpy Birthday, Lucie! I think that warrants a nice picture 🙂
For Peng, her story is an underrated one – she’s done a magnificent job to come back after spending nine months off the tour from June 2015 to have back surgery. The Chinese player is hurtling back up the rankings and is set to break back into the world’s top 60 by virtue of reaching the final. She’s a lovely person so i’m glad to see her having success again!
Peng actually won her only previous match-up with Svitolina in New Haven in 2014, 6-4 6-3. I think Peng has the type of game that could threaten Svitolina, steady-ish with an aggressive streak. Peng’s record in finals has been shaky though and i’d probably still go for Svitolina after she stepped up her game and found some rhythm on the serve in the semi-finals.
Who you got in the final?
Loved this on Instagram!
I’m really enjoying Instagram (so much more than Twitter!) and i’ve decided to share some pictures from my other passion, baking. I’ve been baking a lot of bread and biscuits over these past few weeks but i’m hoping to try some new things over the next couple of months. There’ll be plenty of tennis updates too with some pictures from Eastbourne come June 😉