By Ros Satar
Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) def. Laura Robson (GBR) 6-4 2-6 7-6(6)
There was disappointment for British no. 2, Laura Robson who lost a tightly fought 3-setter in the first round in Dubai.
Robson had two reprieves as Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva twice failed to serve for the match, before winning the deciding tie-break.
Despite a confident start with a hold to love, and an immediate break, Robson struggled to find a first serve, and the sheer volume of her forehand errors would prove to be her undoing at the end.
Robson was broken at 4-4, despite having played the more dominating tennis, and Putintseva claimed the first set in 38 minutes.
Robson tightened up a lot on the errors in the second, and starting confidently again with an early break, this time she consolidated.
Changing her tactics, and troubling Putintseva with her use of angles kept Robson out in front, Robson finally breaking her again to take the set 6-2.
First blood in the deciding set went to Putintseva before the first change of ends after a scoring error from umpire Kader Nouni where a clear winner, correctly challenged by Putintseva resulted in the point being replayed.
It was to no avail as a couple of points later, the Kazakh got the first break.
The error count on Robson’s forehand side started to rack up again, and at 2-3 with 3 break-points in hand, Robson gave them all away.
Robson seems to be able to dig out her best when her back is really against the wall.
A desperate choke from Putintseva, serving for the match at 5-2, handed Robson a break courtesy of two double faults.
Robson followed it up with a hold to love, and benefited from another nervy service game from Putintseva, who double-faulted again for a break.
Robson held to edge ahead again for the first time since the start of the third set, only for Putintseva to play a confident service game for a hold to love, taking the match into a deciding tie-break.
The pair traded mini-breaks until Robson up at 5-3 handed the Kazakh a lifeline with another unforced error.
Two more from Robson gave Putintseva the first match point.
Robson fought well to save the match point, but two more unforced errors gave the 18 year old from Kazakhstan, ranked just outside the Top 100, one of the wins of her career.
Robson will be left to reflect that for all the goodness that has been on display in her game, with an unforced error count of 49 (to Putintseva’s 29) there is a lot of room for improvement.
Take nothing away from the teenager from Kazakhstan – while Robson won 4 points in the match more, Putintseva won the ones that counted.