PALERMO, Italy – Anett Kontaveit upset the seedings to progress to the final of the Palermo Ladies’ Open with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No.1 seed Petra Martic.

The WTA World No.22, playing in her first semifinal since Stuttgart in April 2019, improved her record against Top 20 players in 2020 to 3-4, adding Martic to a list already including Belinda Bencic and Elina Svitolina.

Victory also represented some measure of revenge for a defeat suffered at the quarterfinal stage in Dubai, the pair’s only previous meeting, while it sets up a showpiece encounter against either Fiona Ferro or Camila Giorgi, both of whom are unseeded.

The 24-year-old Estonian, who is closing in on her best ranking of No.14, dominated the opening set before fighting back from dropping her serve in the first game of the second to seal victory in 79 minutes.

“I felt like a played a very good match today,” she said. “I was quite aggressive, consistent, and I served especially well in the first set. It got a bit close in the end, but I played a good game at 5-4 and I’m happy to be in the final.”

Martic praised her opponent's quality, stating: “It was a tough one. I thought I didn’t play badly. I had a few chances I missed, and in the end that makes a difference. Anett played well, she played smart and was the better player today.”

Although Kontaveit had to fight to save her serve in the opening game of the match, doing so from deuce, she thereafter took command of the match, offering good depth to her hitting, which forced her opponent onto the back foot.

Martic, meanwhile, was struggling to rekindle the solid serving that had propelled her to the final four, registering only 56% points won on first serve in the opener while she struggled to control her backhand.

By contrast, Kontaveit was playing with confidence and in clutch situations showed a strong mentality, fighting back from 0-30 down to hold in the seventh game of the frame before securing another break to seal the opener.

A medical timeout between sets for treatment on her upper left leg briefly disrupted her rhythm as she was immediately broken in the second, yet Martic’s advantage was brief as she was unable to consolidate.

The crucial minutes of the second set followed in the third game as Kontaveit was forced to defend a break point before holding to take a 2-1 lead. It was the fifth time in six opportunities that Martic had been denied a point to win the Estonian’s serve to that juncture.

Kontaveit now had all the momentum in her favor and strengthened her grip on the match as ceaseless quality on her returns saw her generate a 4-1 lead.

What might have been an uneventful conclusion, however, instead turned dramatic. From 2-5 down, the top seed held comfortably and then broke as Kontaveit’s game wavered for the first time.

Within a game of her opponent, Martic was forced off for a medical timeout that lasted several minutes, and when she returned, she found her momentum lost.

Instead it was Kontaveit who benefited from the stoppage, ploughing through Martic’s serve without dropping a point to seal a place in her third clay-court final.

Having successfully translated positive training during the Tour’s suspension onto the tournament court, she was delighted, explaining: “It’s always difficult to tell how it’s going to be on court. I can feel well practiced but it might not turn out like that right away. I feel like I’m really fit and I feel like I’m moving well. I feel confident with my groundstrokes, I’m serving well. I’m pleased it’s paid off.”

Kontaveit now has a 5-5 record in WTA semifinals and will go into Sunday’s showpiece chasing her second title, with her only previous success coming on the grass of Rosmalen in June 2017.

2020 Palermo highlights: Martic edges Sasnovich to reach semifinals