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Yulia Putintseva heats up in Budapest, conquers Konjuh for third quarterfinal of 2021
The top seed avenged a Belgrade defeat to the Croat to advance in straight sets and later discussed her impending Olympic debut.
Published Jul 14, 2021
WATCH: Putintseva won five of the final six games to avenge a Belgrade defeat to Konjuh on Wednesday.
Yulia Putintseva scored a statement victory over a resurgent Ana Konjuh, dispatching the former US Open quarterfinalist, 6-4, 6-3 to reach her third quarterfinal of the season at the Hungarian Ladies Grand Prix.
The top seed took a tough lost to Konjuh at the Serbia Open ahead of Roland Garros but battled through two tense sets to seal her Croatian rival in one hour and 47 minutes on Centre Court.
“I was looking at this match and was just trying to build something from it,” a smiling Putintseva explained after the match. "Today, it was really tight from the beginning because she’s always playing so aggressively, and you never know what’s coming.
“I did my best, and was just trying to attack when I could but also play defense where I was making as many balls in as possible—still with the aggression and depth. I think I did that well today.”
Putintseva was among the quickest to adjust to tennis’ “new normal” when she raced into her third career Grand Slam quarterfinal, upsetting Petra Martic to make in into the last eight of the US Open, and later repeated the feat with an equally impressive run at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome.
I’m excited. It’s something new, and especially because I love Japan. They have such a great culture and such great food. I really love it all, and enjoy every time I get to go there. Yulia Putintseva on her Olympic debut
Uniquely suited to playing without spectators, the Kazakh is more than capable of being her own crowd, cutting through the silence with bellicose exhortations. Her 2021 was instead sabotaged by a combination of strict Melbourne quarantine—where she was repeatedly beset by mice and briefly went viral in her calls for fresh air—and a kidney stone that would require surgery and rule her out of the Middle East swing.
Though she made two quarterfinals over the ensuing clay-court swing, Putintseva was decidedly below her best on the major stages, exiting before the third round of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
“I started too soon, and that was my mistake, but I’m happy where I am now, and that I’m pain-free. I’m glad I can finally play and do my best; that’s what’s important.”
Konjuh, by contrast, has been edging back into her Top 20 form after four elbow surgeries kept her off tour for much of the last three years. Ranked just outside the Top 100, the 23-year-old finished runner-up to Paula Badosa in Belgrade and played a solid first round against Aryna Sabalenka in Paris. Rallying from an early deficit against Putintseva on Wednesday, Konjuh was soon up a break in the opening set.
Putintseva weathered the Croat’s formidable onslaught to win the final three games of the first set, and won four games in a row to lead 5-2 in the second. Konjuh made a brave last stand and saved four match points but went long on the fifth, giving Putintseva plenty to celebrate.
“I’m definitely better than I was at the beginning of the year. I’m still trying to find my rhythm because my year didn’t start especially well and my results weren’t great. I’d say I’m in a learning process, and I’m sure if I do the right things, I’ll be back and do even better.”
Ranked as high as world No. 27 at the start of 2017, Putintseva is set to make her Olympic debut in Tokyo, a city that holds special meaning for the Russian-born Kazakh, who won her first completed match against a Top 10 player in the Japanese capital over Madison Keys five years ago.
“I’m excited. It’s something new, and especially because I love Japan. They have such a great culture and such great food. I really love it all, and enjoy every time I get to go there.
“I’m sad that the Japanese crowd won’t be there because I feel like it’s very special to play in front of them. They’re super polite and knowledgeable; they know how to really cheer and show their support, but will wait until the point is over to make noise.”
Putintseva will undoubtedly be up to the challenge of making her own noise, both at the Olympics and in Budapest, where she’ll next face Ukrainian Kateryna Kozlova for a spot in her first semifinal since 2019, when she went on to win her maiden WTA title in Nürnberg.
Earlier in the day, Kozlova came back from a set down to stun No. 5 Ana Bogdan and reach her first WTA quarterfinal in nearly two years (2019 Nanchang). Olga Danilovic and Paula Ormaechea also advanced into the last-eight lineup with straight-set wins over Irina Bara and Ivana Jorovic, respectively.