Anett Kontaveit is back in the winner’s circle in 2021, as the unseeded Estonian notched her second title of the season at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open.
The World No.30 Kontaveit powered past No.4 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-2, 7-5 to win the title in the Czech Republic. The WTA 500-level event is the biggest title of Kontaveit’s career and her third WTA singles title overall.
Kontaveit did not drop a set all week and maintained her flawless play with her sixth Top 20 victory of the year over World No.12 Sakkari. Sakkari held a 5-3 lead in their head-to-head at tour-level coming into the final, but Kontaveit prevailed this time in 1 hour and 32 minutes.
Quotes from the winner: "Maria is such a good player, and we’ve had a lot of tough matches between us, and I knew I had to play well to beat her," Kontaveit said during her post-match press conference. "I think I managed to serve pretty well and play aggressive, but be as consistent as possible."
"When you’re winning matches, it definitely gives you confidence. I feel like I am definitely playing better than I was in the middle of the season, and I think good things can come of it.
"I’ve really had a very good time on court, and I think I’ve enjoyed it after a while, and that’s the thing I’m really most happy about. One of my friends who’s here this week to play doubles, she told me, ‘While we’re here, we might as well enjoy it,’ and that really sort of stuck with me this week."
Long waits ending: Kontaveit continues her winning ways this season after a lengthy title drought. She captured her first title at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 2017, but waited over four years before adding to that tally in Cleveland this summer. Suddenly, Kontaveit has now won two titles in a four-week span.
Sakkari had also waited a long while to make it this far in a WTA singles event. This was the Greek’s first final in over two years, since she won her lone WTA singles title to date in Rabat in 2019. Despite the loss, Sakkari is projected to make her Top 10 debut in Monday’s new singles rankings.
Stat corner: On the day, though, it was Kontaveit who took charge in the final. The Estonian faced only one break point in the match as she powered her way to victory against Sakkari for her 31st match-win of the year.
As it had been for the majority of the week, Kontaveit's aggressive play was pristine, with her 26 winners outpacing her 17 unforced errors. By contrast, Sakkari's 20 winners were outnumbered by 23 unforced errors.
Key plays: Kontaveit clinched the early lead with a fierce forehand to break for 3-1, then used that same wing to break Sakkari again in the last game of the opening set. Kontaveit dominated the opening set with her powerful play, as her nine winners tripled her unforced error count of three.
Sakkari pulled herself into contention in the closer second set, at last attaining her first break point of the day in the opening game. But Kontaveit eased herself out of trouble, erasing that chance with a rally backhand winner, and kept her service hold streak alive.
Sturdy serving all around meant there were no more break points for either player through 6-5, but in that game, Kontaveit grabbed her chance. A ferocious forehand winner down the line gave the Estonian a 0-40 lead and triple championship point, and Kontaveit only needed one of those opportunities, wrapping up another title with one final forehand winner.
Doubles roundup: Earlier, in Sunday's doubles final, No.2 seeds Sania Mirza of India and Zhang Shuai of China collected the champions' trophy, defeating No.3 seeds Kaitlyn Christian of the United States and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand, 6-3, 6-2, in an hour and four minutes.
Doubles stalwarts Mirza and Zhang had never teamed up before last week in Luxembourg, where they fell in the quarterfinals to eventual champions Greet Minnen and Alison van Uytvanck.
But this week, in their second event together, Mirza and Zhang were commanding in the final, winning 76 percent of points behind both their first and second serves, and staving off both break points they faced in the tilt.
This is former WTA Doubles World No.1 Mirza's 43rd WTA doubles title of her legendary career, and her second title since she returned from maternity leave in 2020.
Meanwhile, Zhang is on a hot run in doubles, having won three of her last five doubles tournaments, including her second Grand Slam title at the 2021 US Open alongside Samantha Stosur. Zhang is now up to 11 WTA doubles titles in her career.