's-HERTOGENBOSCH, Netherlands - Unseeded Estonian Anett Kontaveit capped a dream week on the grass in the Netherlands with her first career title, as she powered past Natalia Vikhlyantseva to win the Ricoh Open on Sunday, 6-2, 6-3.
The World No.49 was runner-up to Marketa Vondrousova at the Ladies' Open Biel Bienne in her first career WTA final this spring, but flipped the script this week and became the first Estonian to win the title in 's-Hertogenbosch in the tournament's history.
"I'm just so excited!" Kontaveit said after the match. "I thought I played a great match and congrats to Natalia for a great week - I hope we'll have more battles. It's been amazing for me, I had really tough matches and I'm so happy to be through them - to win the final, it's amazing.
"I thought the scoreline didn't really describe the match. We had some very close games, already from the beginning she had break points on my serve and I was down a break in the second set...I thought I played a great match. It was really close all along - she's a very big server and a big hitter so it was not easy."
Kontaveit had played three three-setters en route to Sunday's final, including a first round victory over No.8 seed Kristyna Pliskova from a set down, and a two-hour semifinal against No.7 seed Lesia Tsurenko.
By contrast, the Russian had played just one three-set match - a second round win over Andrea Petkovic - en route to the championship, but it was Kontaveit who started the stronger of the two in the opening set. Just as she did in her semifinal mtch, Kontaveit saved a pair of break points in the third game of the match, and used the momentum as a springboard into breaking in her opponent's next service game to build a 4-1 lead.
The Estonian rolled on from there to claim the first set, highlighted by precise hitting from the baseline to secure a second break of the Vikhlyantseva serve from 40-0 in the final game of the opener.
Playing in her first career WTA final, Vikhlyantseva started brightly in the second set, breaking the Kontaveit serve at her first opportunity in the opening game.
The Russian built a 3-1 lead behind some strong serving, but after a visit from experienced Dutchman and coach Glenn Schaap on the chageover when trailing 3-2, Kontaveit responded to adversity in a big way.
Two straight love games, a break and a hold, ran Kontaveit's string of points to 10 in a row, as she claimed her first lead of the set. The Russian could do little to stave off Kontaveit's victory from there, as she surrendered serve for the second straight time and saw Kontaveit serve out the match and her first career title in decisive fashion.
"I want to congratulate Anett, she played really good," Vikhlyantseva said in defeat. "I followed her results and...I remember when I played my first [ITF Circuit] $25,000 [tournament], I lost first round qualies and she won her first $25K, so maybe I have some potential - and right now, I'm at this level."
Both players struck 12 winners off the ground in the match, but it was the aggression of Kontaveit that won out on the afternoon, as she forced 33 errors off of Vikhlyantseva's racquet.
Taking victory at the Ricoh Open is the latest addition to a grass court pedigree that Kontaveit has shown already in her young career. The 21-year-old lost to eventual champion Eugenie Bouchard in the girls' singles semifinals at Wimbledon in 2012, and won herself a wildcard into the women's singles in 2015 thanks to a $50,000 ITF Circuit title in Eastbourne and two other semifinals on grass leading up to the action at the All-England Club that year.
"It's difficult to choose your favorite [surface], but I have just won the tournament!" Kontaveit said. "I've always loved playing on grass since I was a junior. Maybe you can say my first title, on grass, so this is special. I'm just so proud that I've come back in these matches...in the first two matches, I was down a set...I was in difficult situations and I managed to push through, fight and give my best, so I'm really happy with that."
Kontaveit is the first Estonian to win a WTA title since Kaia Kanepi won in Brussels in 2013, and will rise to a new career-high of No.36 in the WTA rankings on Monday.
"I'm so thrilled and happy, and really, really proud to win this title. I've been trying to keep low expectations, just to take it match by match and not thinking of the result so much. I'm working really hard and I think it's a result of that and I'm really happy with how I'm improving and how things are working out right now."