Kontaveit Having A Good Time On Court And It’s Translating Into Wins

Anett Kontaveit (photo: Wendell Teodoro / Tennis Australia)

SYDNEY/WASHINGTON, January 11, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 7 Anett Kontaveit of Estonia has picked up where she left off at the end of the 2021 season, when arguably she was the hottest player on the WTA tour.

On Monday, in her 2022 debut at the WTA 500 Sydney Tennis Classic, the No. 4 seed Kontaveit pushed aside China’s Zhang Shuai, 6-3, 6-3, in just 89 minutes. It was her third victory in four career meetings against Zhang.

Losing just 15 points in her nine service games, Kontaveit parlayed a couple of service breaks – one in each set – that lifted her into the second round against 87th-ranked qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania.

The 26-year-old Kontaveit finished last season by winning 29 of her last 34 matches and reached the title match of the WTA Finals in Guadalajara before losing to champion Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, 6-3, 7-5. At the same time she switched coaches last summer and began working with ex-Russian tour player Dmitry Tursunov, who formerly worked with World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus as well as with Russians Aslan Karatsev and Elena Vesnina, her season turned around for her.

Like Tursunov, Kontaveit has shown signs of hitting excellent groundstrokes from both sides and and being an offensive baseliner. Under his guidance, she began winning consistently and it boosted her confidence and ranking. First, Kontaveit won an outdoor hard-court title in Cleveland, Ohio, before the US Open. Then, she added three more hard-court titles indoors toward the end of the season: at Ostrava, Czech Republic; in Moscow, Russia; and at Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Kontaveit finished the season tied with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur for most singles victories on tour with 48 and also made her Top 10 debut on November 15 at No. 7 after starting 2021 ranked 23rd.

“I think I have this bigger self-belief that I know I can go deep in these weeks and do well and play good tennis and competitive tennis against great players,” Kontaveit said in press after beating Zhang. Looking back at Guadalajara, she strung together a trio of Top-10 triumphs, against Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Krejcikova and Maria Sakkari. Only Muguruza, who finished the year ranked No. 3, beat Kontaveit in Mexico.

“I think I have this inner confidence, but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself,” Kontaveit said Monday. “The end of the season was physically very demanding, and although now I’m feeling good and ready to play again, it’s going to be a new season and I’m just really happy to be back competing and not expecting anything crazy of myself, but taking it match by match. I really feel like I have the self-belief that I can go far.”

As Kontaveit prepares for the new season – and with one match win under her belt – she was asked what she’s hoping to achieve in order to get ready for next week’s Australian Open. She replied: “I think the most important thing is to convert the things that me and Dmitry worked on a little bit in the off-season and trying to do those things as well as possible on court and just really focus on game goals, not just think too much about the results.

“I think I’m really having fun with it. I’m having a good time on court, and I think that’s also another main thing that’s the most important for me.” 

Djokovic’s visa to enter Australia reinstated, but what’s next?

While an Australian judge overturned the cancellation of Novak Djokovic’s visa Monday, which paved the way for the World No. 1 to be released from detention and enter the country – and compete in next week’s Australian Open, which he still wants desperately to do – it seems that the unvaccinated Serbian’s clash with the Australian government over a vaccine exemption granted by Tennis Australia may not be entirely over.

In a tweet late Monday, Djokovic said he was “pleased and grateful” the visa cancellation was overturned. He and his team, which included coach Goran Ivanisevic, posed for a group photo inside Rod Laver Arena that accompanied the tweet. Djokovic got in a late-night hitting session at Melbourne Park after his release from the detention facility that he was being held at since his arrival late last Wednesday evening.

“I remain focused on that,” he wrote on Twitter. “I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans.”

It should be noted that Australia’s immigration minister Alex Hawke still has the authority – personal discretion – to cancel Djokovic’s via, according to published reports. If Djokovic were to be deported by Hawke, he wouldn’t be able to return to Australia for three years. Djokovic would again be able to appeal.

Once upon a time, Stefanos Tsitsipas used to be a ball kid 

On Sunday, World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece met wit the Australian Open 2022 ball kid squad for an official welcome to Melbourne Park.

The 380-member squad will wear uniforms by Ralph Lauren, the official outfitter of the Australian Open.

The creative side of Naomi Osaka

After reaching the semifinals of last week’s WTA 250 Melbourne Summer Set at Melbourne Park, defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka took some time out to reveal her newest collection with iconic American apparel brand Nike.

Making new friends at the Adelaide Zoo

Coco Gauff of the United States and Russia’s Karen Khachanov made new friends during a recent visit to the Adelaide Zoo. Both are competing this week at the Adelaide International 2.

What they’re writing

From Christopher Clarey of The New York Times, “Novak Djokovic’s Fight To Play Tennis Could Just Be Starting”:

By the numbers

Sweden’s 88th-ranked Rebecca Peterson earned her first career Top 10 win Tuesday afternoon at the Adelaide International 2 after coming back from a set down to upset World No. 2 and top seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, 5-7, 6-1, 7-5.

During the two-hour and 18-minute first-round match, Peterson took advantage of 21 double faults and 61 unforced errors by Sabalenka, who lost in the opening round at Adelaide for the second straight week.

“Quotable …”