Agnieszka Radwanska probably wasn’t expecting much of a struggle in her first round match against Kazakhstani opponent Yulia Putintseva, but a second set comeback took everyone by surprise at Melbourne Park on Tuesday.
The world No. 5 Radwanska, seemingly cruising to a comfortable win, was caught off guard as an animated and fiery Putintseva fought back during the second set on Hisense Arena, eventually forcing the Pole to claim the match in the third 6-0, 5-7, 6-2.
Showing no mercy in the first set, Radwanska’s swift movement and solid returns were no match for Putintseva as she denied her a single game, rounding it out 6-0 in just 27 minutes.
Under a hot Melbourne sun, Radwanska showed class on court, the ‘Queen of Subtlety’ providing many more winners than her younger opponent.
The crowd could be excused for thinking Radwanska would cruise to victory in straight sets, but in a stunning form reversal, Putintseva charged back in the second set, breaking early and taking it to Radwanska.
With unforgiving ground-strokes and good court coverage, Putintseva caught Radwanska off-guard, rattling the Pole into a string of unforced errors.
Playing with a new lease of life, Putintseva fought her way back to send the game to a third set decider.
With compelling rallies and exceptional stroke-play, Putintseva was continually vocal on court, celebrating at every opportunity.
For the first time in 2014, the Australian Open heat policy took effect, giving both players a break before the start of the final set.
But it was the experience of Radwanska that shone through in the end, the 24-year-old steadying her game and taking the third set 6-2 in 52 minutes.
A luxury that Putintseva didn’t have was Radwanska’s ability to serve out many crucial moments in the match, a total of nine aces to Putintseva’s none.
Known for her vast variety of shots and delicate stroke-play, Radwanska showed similar signs of the struggle she exhibited last week when she lost to qualifier, Bethanie Mattek-Sands 5-7, 2-6 in the first round of the Sydney International.
Putintseva, however, goes from strength to strength, as the 19-year-old has now played in four Grand Slam tournaments, and is now ranked 112 in the world.
Last year, Putintseva bowed out in the second round of her first Australian Open, when losing to Spaniard, Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-1, 6-7(5), 2-6.
Despite the win, it was a match Radwanska will be happy to put behind her when she moves on to face Olga Govortsova of Belarus.