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More final woe for Tomljanovic in pre-Wimbledon Classic

Ajla Tomljanovic's dream of finally winning her first WTA tour title after 15 years of slog has been shattered after she fell frustratingly short once again in the final of the Birmingham Classic.

For the Australian stalwart, who had reached four previous WTA finals only to be beaten in them all, it was deja vu as Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva defeated her 6-1 7-6 (10-8) in a grass-court showdown for the Maud Watson Trophy at Edgbaston on Sunday.

Tomljanovic had lifted what's considered as a 'challenger' trophy in Brazil last year amid an injury-strewn spell for the 31-year-old, but a triumph in a tour-level '250' event had, frustratingly, always proved beyond her in 179 previous WTA main draws.

But back in business in the celebrated pre-Wimbledon event at Edgbaston Priory only a month since she began her latest comeback amid an eight-month injury and illness hiatus, it proved a familiar tale of what might have been for the Queensland player.

Outplayed by inspired world No.41 Putintseva in the opening set and at the start of the second, Tomljanovic fought back superbly, finding real venom in her ball-striking to earn a set point at 5-4, only to inexplicably serve up three straight double faults to allow Putintseva a path back.

Then in a dramatic tiebreak, Tomljanovic missed out on a second set point before twice saving championship point, only to finally succumb by screwing a forehand just wide.

"It's never easy losing in a final but I really tried my best today," Tomljanovic told the sympathetic crowd, many of whom have been supporting her at the Birmingham event over 14 years.

Playing on the Ann Jones Centre Court and being watched by the 85-year-old 1969 Wimbledon champion herself, Tomljanovic missed out on becoming only the second Aussie winner at Edgbaston after Ash Barty in 2019.

But she was left proud that, down in the rankings at 190 after her injury problems, she will be back up to 135 next week, ready for another crack at Wimbledon where she's twice previously reached the quarter-finals.

Putintseva, who'd dropped only one set all week on the way to her third tour crown, ended up somewhat relieved after Tomljanovic found a second-set purple patch with a succession of booming winners off both wings.

"It's been a great game. I started so well, and then Ajla developed her level to the highest and she was playing really amazing, not giving me any time to think. The game was even in the end and I was a bit more lucky," said the 29-year-old.

"I want to congratulate Ajla. It's great to see you back after everything you've been through, with all your injuries. It's a great achievement.

"You deserve this title as much as I do, but today I was stronger, but hopefully we'll have a lot more to come, a lot more of these moments to share."

Then, she couldn't resist adding with a laugh: "And, yeah, hope I win the next one as well!"

Putintseva, whose feisty on-court demeanour contrasts so strikingly with a jokey off-court persona, added: "My first grass-court title. I don't know what I'm feeling because I wasn't expecting this at all.

"It's great - and it's confusing because I've always been good on clay, but now all of a sudden, I'm good on grass! I'll take that! It's great!"