Valiant Boulter falls to fiesty Putinseva leaving Fed Cup tie deadlocked

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With the score tied at 1-1, Great Britain’s mission to qualify for the Federation Cup World Group for the first time since 1993 rests on a knife edge. Johanna Konta produced an impressive three-set victory in the first match of the day at the Copper Box Arena in London, recovering well from a slow start to beat world #107 Zarina Diyas 4-6 6-3 6-2. But British hopes took a turn for the worse in the second match.

Katie Boulter gives her all in defeat to Yulia Putintseva

Boulter used her height advantage over the diminutive Putintseva to make life difficult early on for the Kazakh. She was able to dominate from the back of the court thanks to some heavy hitting, with two breaks of serve at the back end of the set sealing it in Boulter’s favour, much to the delight of the British fans.

But an excellent drop shot from the racquet of Putintseva proved to be the turning point. It came in a mammoth third game that could have gone either way, but was ultimately claimed by Kazakhstan after an unforced error from Boulter. Boulter then went off-court for an injury time-out and, though she returned, she didn’t look the same player. The British team will certainly be hoping that it does not prove too serious ahead of a potentially pivotal fourth rubber against Diyas. The pocket of Kazakhstan supporters, who had already been making the majority of the noise, only got louder, which clearly fired up Putintseva. Another break of serve followed and not long after the set.

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Boulter, however, shrugged off her injury issues, as well as the disappointment of losing the second set, to race out to a 4-0 lead in the decider. But Putintseva dug in and Boulter’s unforced errors started to mount. A Boulter double fault with the Briton serving for the match proved particularly damaging to her hopes, with Putintseva drawing level soon after. The pressure then shifted back to Boulter. But she dealt with it magnificently to guarantee herself at least a tiebreak.

Coming out swinging after the change of ends, the Briton forced a match point at 30-40. Putintseva, however, played impeccable tennis to save it and force a tiebreak, a fitting end for such a close contest. Boulter, the bigger server of the two, may well have liked her chances going into it. But Putintseva, a quarterfinalist at Roland Garros last season, is amongst the toughest players on the WTA tour and it was she who held her nerve the better. She saved a third match point, before converting when her own chance appeared to seal a 3-6 6-2 7-6 win.

This tie could go down to a doubles decider

Should the two singles rubbers tomorrow finish 1-1 as today, then it will be down to the doubles. In Bath in February, Harriet Dart and Katie Swan won the only doubles match. However, it seems unlikely that Keothavong will go with such an inexperienced pairing again. Harriet Dart is pencilled in to play doubles with Heather Watson. Watson will surely be desperate to play her part, which could well prove decisive.

24-year-old Russian-born Galina Voskoboeva, who recently partnered Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova to the final at the Ladies Open Lugano, is likely to feature across the net. Anna Danilina, with whom she won a crucial doubles rubber against China in their last tie, may again partner Voskoboeva in Britain.

Sunday is likely to be a nervous day for the home crowd hoping Britain can end it’s 26 year absence from the Fed Cup World Group. But before this there is the mouth-watering singles matches, including Konta vs Putintseva, likely to be another thrilling battle. And one that Konta will need to everything in her power to win if Britain’s chances aren’t to take a major hit.

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