Kontaveit Caps A Winning Week In Ostrava!!!

Annet Kontaveit (photo: J&T Banka Ostrava Open 2021)

OSTRAVA/WASHINGTON, September 26, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit was unstoppable this week in Ostrava. She didn’t lose a single set en route to knocking out three of the top four seeds at the WTA 500 J&T Banka Ostrava Open to win her third career singles title and second in two months.

In the title match that took place inside Ostravar Arena in the Czech Republic’s third largest city – denoted on the court with three exclamation points Ostrava!!! – the No. 30 Kontaveit and fourth-seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, good friends off the court and tremendous competitors on it, met for the 11th time overall and fourth this year.

After a string of nine straight semifinal losses dating back to 2019, the 12th-ranked Sakkari finally got to taste what it’s like to play in a final. While she didn’t want to let go of the experience, Kontaveit played the spoiler during their one hour and 32-minute title match and won 6-2, 7-5. She hit 26 winners, broke Sakkari’s serve three times and took advantage of her opponent’s 23 unforced errors. Kontaveit outpointed Sakkari 75-56.

While Sakkari still holds a 6-5 advantage in their career head-to-head, the Ostrava final showed Kontaveit to be the steadier player. It was the Estonian’s first WTA 500 title.

“It was such a good week for me,” Kontaveit said during the trophy ceremony. “First, of course, I want to congratulate Maria and [her] team on such a great year. I watched your matches; I’ve cheered for you watching on TV. I’m really glad you are doing so well. I have so much respect for you on and off the court. I think you’re an amazing person.

“We started the year in a quarantine in Australia, consoling each other every day and trying to keep ourselves safe in the hotel room. We’ve played each other quite a few times. I’m just so happy we get to share the court.”

During the title match, Kontaveit attacked early and often – winning frequently on her opponent’s second serve. She broke Sakkari on her second opportunity during a 12-point fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Then, Kontaveit consolidated the break with a backhand winner. Soon, after holding at love with a cross-court forehand winner, Kontaveit broke Sakkari for a second time to win the 32-minute first set 6-2. She outpointed Sakkari 32-18 and took advantage of her opponent’s 13 unforced errors. Kontaveit showed to be the more anchored player and her mindset was in a good place.

Perhaps, in an indicator of good things to come, Kontaveit fought off a break point to hold serve in a 10-point opening game to start the second set. Then, she held firm in dropping just four points in her next three service games for a 4-3 lead. While Kontaveit made Sakkari work hard to hold serve in a pivotal 10-point eighth game, she continued to protect her own serve and maintained a 5-4 advantage by ripping a forehand winner on game point. The satisfaction expressed on Kontaveit’s face spoke volumes as she returned to her bench for the ninth-game changeover.

Now, with a chance to win the Ostrava title if she could break the Greek rising star, Kontaveit pushed ahead 15-30 thanks to a double fault and an unforced error on an overhead return. But Sakkari recovered to win three straight points. After Kontaveit gained a deuce point by attacking with a backhand winner, she continued to hold tough and saved two more game points. However, Sakkari finally held serve for 5-all, wrapping up a dramatic 12-point battle with a forehand winner and a netted return by Kontaveit. Then, the Estonian recovered nicely from down 0-30 to hold serve in the 11th game for a 6-5 lead.

For the second time, Sakkari found herself having to hold serve to stay in the title match. This time, though, Kontaveit raced to a 0-40 lead and gained a championship point after hitting an authoritative forehand winner down the line. Finally, Kontaveit prevailed with one final forehand winner that capped an epic 14-shot final rally. It was a nice coda to wrap up a triumphant week.

The two competitors shared a warm and friendly embrace at the net. Kontaveit completed the tournament with clean slate of five straight-set wins, which included victories over No. 3 seed Belinda Bencic in the quarterfinals, No. 2 seed Petra Kvitova in the semifinals and Sakkari in the title match. It improved her 2021 win-loss record to 31-14 and it was her 12th win in her last 13 matches.

Later in press, Kontaveit said: “When you’re winning matches, it definitely gives you confidence. I feel like I am definitely playing better than I was in the middle of the season, and I think good things can come of it.”

Although Sakkari, who finished with 20 winners, will ascend to the WTA Top 10 next week, Kontaveit’s consistent performance was more than she could handle on this early autumn afternoon.

Gracious in defeat, Sakkari gave props to Kontaveit during the trophy ceremony. “Everyone knows you’re a great player, but you’re also an unbelievable person,” she said, fighting back the disappointment but also being proud of reaching another final.

Mirza and Zhang win first doubles title together

Playing together for the second time – but, certainly, no strangers to winning doubles titles with other partners – No. 2 seeds Sania Mirza of India and Zhang Shuai of China won the Ostrava doubles title with a 6-3, 6-2 victory Kaitlyn Christian of the United States and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand Sunday afternoon.

The winners saved the only two break points they faced during the 65-minute final. Mirza served out the title win at love and Zhang, who recently won the US Open women’s doubles title with Samantha Stosur of Australia and is ranked 13th in the world, gave her a thumbs up as they celebrated together after securing championship point.

“It’s my first time in Ostrava … and it was an amazing atmosphere to play a final in,” Mirza said during the trophy ceremony. “My partner just won the US Open and she’s winning everything she plays. So, it was kind of easy to play with her.

“My son at home told me yesterday, ‘Mama, come home with a trophy.’ So, I had to do it!”

Mirza and Zhang combined to hit 24 winners and converted three of eight break points against Christian and Routliffe. They outpointed their opponents 58-37.

After reaching the quarterfinals a week ago in Luxembourg, Mirza and Zhang strung together four wins in Ostrava and won their last two matches in straight sets. The Ostrava triumph was Zhang’s 30th doubles victory of the season and third title she’s won in 23 tournaments this year. Zhang and Stosur also won the Western & Southern Open doubles title in Mason, Ohio, prior to the US Open. It was Mirza’s first doubles title since winning Hobart with Nadiia Kichenok of Ukraine in January 2020.