If there’s such a thing as maiden Grand Slam jitters, Russian-turned-Kazakh Yulia Putintseva is the exception to the rule.
The 18-year-old showcased total dominance throughout two of her three sets on Tuesday, downing American world No.35 Christina McHale 6-1 6-7(0) 6-2 in the opening round of Australian Open 2013.
Putintseva, the world No.122, lost in the final of the junior girls’ Australian Open last year and is playing in her maiden main draw at Melbourne. While some players take a while to surge up the rankings, she is wasting as little time as possible after jumping 604 spots between 2010 and 2012, and is continuing to rise.
As for 20-year-old McHale, the loss marks her seventh consecutive one-and-done tournament performance in a streak that stems back to Cincinnati in August.
With Putintseva holding serve in the opening game, McHale did herself no favours in her attempt to follow suit. A double fault and two unforced backhand errors saw the American down a break and facing a horror start to her Australian Open campaign.
While the American reverted to a reactive and safe game style, it was the young Putintseva who was on the front foot, boldly aiming deep in the corners and happy to take risks. Her game was far from predictable, however – among the flurry of powerful forehands pushing her opponent wide, the Kazakh would occasionally pull out some swift dropshots, well out of McHale’s reach.
After dropping the opening set 6-1 in just 32 minutes, McHale’s hopes of grabbing any form of momentum quickly ended after her opponent broke serve yet again and raced to a 3-1 lead.
But despite looking down the barrel of yet another first round exit, the American regrouped in remarkable fashion. She clawed her way back into the match, reducing her errors and started to regain momentum.
The American took the second set to a tiebreak – which she won to love – as a memorable fightback began to take shape.
But the young Kazakh held her nerve, breaking her American opponent in the fourth game of the deciding set which helped her secure the match.
Putintseva will play Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round on Thursday.