PALERMO, Italy - No.4 seed Anett Kontaveit closed out Center Court action on Tuesday with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Patricia Maria Tig at the 31st Palermo Ladies Open.
Kontaveit was playing her first match since the Qatar Total Open, where she fell to eventual champion Aryna Sabalenka in three sets, and since the WTA tour was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Estonian acquitted herself well against Tig, advancing after 94 minutes.
"I'm just really happy to have won that match," she said after the match. "It was a little bit difficult switching from hardcourts to outdoor clay. It was a little windy and I wasn't used to the bad bounces. I fought well, managed to come back in the second set, never gave up on the set when I was 3-0 down and really stayed in there. I feel like I played the important points well, and I wasn't missing on those."
The pair last played in 2015, where Kontaveit won in three sets. In the years that followed, Tig made her Top 100 debut, left the circuit to give birth to a daughter in 2018, and returned to tennis with impressive success, earning a career-high ranking thanks in part to a runner-up finish at the BRD Bucharest Open last summer.
Kontaveit began 2020 on a historic note, becoming the first from her country to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open - knocking out No.6 seed Belinda Bencic en route - and showed similar form against Tig on Tuesday, emerging from an early exchange of breaks to take the opening set.
"It was exciting to step on the court after a while. I wasn't too nervous, actually; I felt I managed to stay quite calm and handle the situation well, so that I could stay tough on the important points and turn tough games around."
Tig took a medical timeout in between sets and appeared on song to start the second, sweeping through the first three games. The momentum soon shifted back towards Kontaveit, who ultimately rolled through the final six games to book her spot in the second round.
"It's going to take time to get used to everything," she said of the new protocols meant to help maximize a safe tournament. "I never really use the towel much on the court, so that's not too big of a change for me. I have to remind myself to keep my distance when asking for the ball, which is definitely unusual, but I'll get used to it."
Awaiting her there is Germany's Laura Siegemund, who took a two-set win over Irina-Camelia Begu on Monday. Kontaveit and Siegemund last played in 2018, with the Estonian winning in three sets at the China Open in Beijing.
"It's definitely going to be tough. She plays really well on clay, and so I'll be expecting that while trying to play my game. Hopefully I can stay aggressive, and do the best that I can."