Anett Kontaveit cruised into the third round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia with an emphatic first win over a reigning World No.1, defeating top seed Angelique Kerber, 6-4, 6-0.
Working with famed coach Glenn Schaap - who has worked with the likes of Dinara Safina, Nadia Petrova, and Jelena Dokic - Kontaveit began the second quarter of 2017 with a maiden WTA final at the Ladies Open Biel Bienne, and followed that up with a win over reigning French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza, her first win over a Top 10 player.
Set to earn a new career-high ranking after her run in Rome, Kontaveit sat down with WTA Insider back at the Mutua Madrid Open to discuss how she got into tennis, her fascination with the Shonda Rhimes oeuvre, and how she picked up a British accent from friends made during her junior days:
WTA Insider: The last few weeks have to be incredibly confidence-boosting for you. What’s it been like from Indian Wells up until now?
Kontaveit: I’ve gained a lot of confidence, played so many matches. I’ve done pretty well, and I’m quite happy with where my tennis is going at the moment.
WTA Insider: Is there anything you feel like you’re doing differently, or has something clicked with you towards the end of the hardcourt season?
Kontaveit: I had a good pre-season; I worked really hard, and I think it took me a little while to get into some matches and get match confidence. Once I started playing more and more, everything started to click and that’s what helped.
I think it’s all in the tiny, little details. I’m not consciously doing something totally different, but I think the confidence helps a lot. When you win some matches and get through some tough patches, it all starts flowing a little easier.
WTA Insider: People are still getting to know you, and we’re obviously going to start seeing you in more main draws, but my understanding is you started playing tennis when you were six?
Kontaveit: My mom is a tennis coach, so she brought me to it. She coached at a local club, and so since I was really young, she would drag me along to the tennis courts! It was always my interest, and she would help me. I like the competing and the fighting. I think it’s a really intelligent sport; I really like it.
WTA Insider: When it comes to fighting, would you consider yourself an inherently competitive person? Do you have siblings?
Kontaveit: I have an older half-sister, but yeah, I’m very competitive in anything and everything. I can’t even name something specific but I just want to win at everything I do. I also tend to turn things into a competition to make things more interesting.
WTA Insider: Where do you train these days?
Kontaveit: I train here and there, in Estonia sometimes, but also Switzerland. It depends on what part of the season, and there’s quite a lot of tournaments. So, if the flight’s really long, it makes sense to get there early and train there.
WTA Insider: What has to work for you to play your best tennis?
Kontaveit: I have to be there mentally; that’s the most important thing for me. I don’t think motivation’s ever been my problem, but it’s difficult to say. For me to play my best tennis, everything has to click. I have to be in good physical shape, mentally as well.
WTA Insider: There aren’t a ton of Estonian players on tour, so there’s not much of a posse with Kaia [Kanepi] out. What is tour life like for you?
Kontaveit: My mom travels with me sometimes. I also have my coach. I wouldn’t say it’s lonely because we’re all used to it. I’ve always had this situation where I’ve had to be alone because I’ve never had a huge team or heaps of players from my country. I think I’m just used to it.
WTA Insider: Who did you look up to growing up; what players did you admire?
Kontaveit: Growing up, Azarenka and Sharapova were both doing really well, so I had a lot of respect for them and thought they were really good. I was dreaming of playing on the same stages as them one day.
WTA Insider: You got that chance against Maria Sharapova in Stuttgart, so what was that experience like?
Kontaveit: I thought the whole match was really good. It was close and I was really happy with the way I played. I thought she played amazing. There were still some things I could have done better, which was good because it means I can still improve. It was an amazing experience. It was about getting used to the crowd and the Center Court, but it all felt great.
WTA Insider: What is that transition like, going from smaller courts to big stages?
Kontaveit: It feels very different. I like playing in front of big crowds; it gives me energy and such motivation, an adrenaline rush! The key is playing your level no matter what court you’re on. It’s amazing to play on the big courts. I don’t feel overwhelmed by them, but I was trying to enjoy those moments because the vibe was crazy!
WTA Insider: Have your results made you reevaluate any goals you might have set at the beginning of the season?
Kontaveit: I’ve achieved a few goals already. The first was Top 100, then Top 70. We were trying to set small goals because slow and steady.
WTA Insider: What is a reachable dream goal for the season? Maybe not incremental, but not winning all the Grand Slams…
Kontaveit: Why not all the Grand Slams? I’m just kidding, but for the rest of the season, I’d say Top 30.
WTA Insider: Would you say you’re most comfortable on hardcourts?
Kontaveit: I don’t really mind too much. I like playing on grass, and I don’t mind clay. If I’m really comfortable or confident, then the surface doesn’t matter to me, outdoor or indoor.
WTA Insider: Speaking of indoor, you made your first WTA final in Biel/Bienne. Talk about that week.
Kontaveit: I’d been in the semis a few times, and now reaching a final felt great. It was my first time, what else can I say? I try to take everything match by match and then I’m like, ‘Oh wow, I’m in the semis! Ok!’ I try not to think too far ahead.
WTA Insider: Did it feel different playing a final?
Kontaveit: It’s tough to say, being three weeks out. It’s always a little different in a semifinal or a final. I didn’t feel I didn’t feel that nervous; in fact, I felt quite comfortable. I might have felt more of a crowd than in the first round.
WTA Insider: A few non-tennis related questions: So what do you do to pass the time when you’re on tour?
Kontaveit: I read books, watch TV shows. The time sort of disappears somewhere because I don’t feel like I have a ton of time on my hands. I try to relax and chill during the free time I do have, so I can be ready for the next match and conserve energy.
WTA Insider: What TV shows are you watching these days?
Kontaveit: What don’t I watch, is the better question! I love Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Riverdale is a new one, and How To Get Away With Murder.
WTA Insider: What’s your most used app on your phone?
Kontaveit: I would say Instagram. My handle is anett_kontaveit.
WTA Insider: Why Instagram over Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat?
Kontaveit: I really enjoy looking at other peoples’ pictures. It’s so pretty, like the fashion photos, and then there’s a lot of dog photos as well. I like keeping up to date with all those.
WTA Insider: What’s the most recent song you’ve listened to today?
Kontaveit: I have to look it up because I forget the names all the time. It was “On Our Own” by Showtek.
WTA Insider: What was the last movie you watched?
Kontaveit: Guardians of the Galaxy 2. It was great. It wasn’t as good as the first one, but close.
WTA Insider: What’s the last concert you went to?
Kontaveit: It might have been Robbie Williams but that was a few years ago. He was in Estonia so it was amazing.
WTA Insider: What’s the first thing you think to do when you get home in Estonia?
Kontaveit: The first thing I look forward to is petting my dog; he’s a chocolate lab named Milo. He’s three. He’d go crazy at tournaments with all the tennis balls flying around; he loves them.
WTA Insider: What’s your favorite tournament?
Kontaveit: US Open, because I love the atmosphere there. It’s really easygoing and free. I love the vibe.
WTA Insider: What’s your favorite book?
Kontaveit: I really liked Gone Girl. I liked the movie, but the book was a bit better. When I was like 14, I was obsessed with Twilight. I read the books like three times each; it was a little scary. It was the first book I finished in a day; the first one was in Estonian but the others were in English because they hadn’t been translated yet.
WTA Insider: How many languages do you speak?
Kontaveit: Estonian and English.
WTA Insider: You have a British accent in your English; why is that?
Kontaveit: When I was playing juniors, I had a lot of British friends. We skype sometimes too. It’s not something I wanted to have, but I definitely picked it up and now I can’t do anything about it.
Hear more from Kontaveit on the latest episode of the WTA Insider Podcast: