No.9 seed Anett Kontaveit pulled off a remarkable comeback to win the VTB Kremlin Cup title, storming back from 4-6, 0-4 down to deny Ekaterina Alexandrova 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in 2 hours and 22 minutes.
"To go 4-0 down [in the second set], she was really hitting the balls down the line, she was playing amazing tennis," Kontaveit said in her post-match press conference. "I was just trying to stay in it as long as I could, and I never really gave up. I was just trying to fight for every point as much as I could. If I would have lost 6-4, 6-2 or whatever, I knew I tried everything.
"When these moments happen, which they do happen, I’m just trying to think about the process and not too much of the score, which can be difficult, of course, sometimes. I think that the main thing is to try and think about the process and what I have to do, and not focus on other things that you cannot control."
Playing her fifth final of 2021, the Estonian collected her third title of the season - all of which have come in the past two months - and fourth overall. It is her second at WTA 500 level following Ostrava a month ago; in conjunction with that title run, Kontaveit is now on a 10-match winning streak indoors. She has won 21 of her past 23 matches, and her overall record this year is 40-15.
Only two other players have won as many titles in 2021 so far: Kontaveit equals Barbora Krejcikova's haul of three, behind World No.1 Ashleigh Barty's total of five.
The Moscow final was the second time in as many encounters that Kontaveit and Alexandrova have needed a tight third set to separate them. In the first round of Ostrava last year, Alexandrova failed to serve out the match three times and missed two match points, falling 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(6).
Here, she was competing in her first WTA 500 final and bidding to win her second title and become the seventh home champion in Moscow. Alexandrova served for the match at 6-5 in the decider and came within two points of triumph, but was denied in a heartbreaker once again.
Stat corner: The tightness of the contest was reflected in the numbers: Kontaveit finished with 34 winners to Alexandrova's 35, but 36 unforced errors to her opponent's 43. Each player tallied five aces, but also six double faults.
With such even stats, the swings in momentum and final result would come down to execution on the biggest points - something which shifted over the course of the three sets.
Scoreboard swings: Rock-solid serving, including a 77% first serve percentage, was the bedrock of Alexandrova's first-set success. The Russian did not face a break point, but repeatedly pressured the Kontaveit serve. Converting those opportunities was a struggle, but Alexandrova's determination to keep creating them paid off. A superb backhand return sealed her seventh break point of the set for a 3-2 lead.
Alexandrova's level rose even more once the first set was in the bag. A scintillating run of five straight games saw her race out to a 4-0 second-set lead, with several forehand stunners drawing gasps from her home crowd. But it was Kontaveit who found a forehand winner to break back for 4-2 and ultimately turn the tide.
The closing stages of the second set were filled with tension as Alexandrova battled to protect her lead and Kontaveit fought to stay alive. Kontaveit was now holding serve with ease, and the pressure points were all on the Alexandrova serve. Her last three service games of the set were all long deuce tussles; Kontaveit, finding big returns at the tail end of each, won them all as she reeled off seven games in a row.
Alexandrova steadied the ship in the third set, and despite Kontaveit hitting with more confidence managed to remain on level terms. Indeed, after saving break point at 3-4, it was the World No.37 who made the first breakthrough, finding a backhand winner to capture Kontaveit's serve in the next game.
But just when she needed it, Alexandrova's forehand let her down. Serving for the title, consecutive errors from that wing handed the break back to Kontaveit. Two games later, Alexandrova could not take two game points to force a tiebreak. Instead, a sixth double fault followed by a short forehand sent over the baseline ended the clash on an unfortunate note for the home player.
Ostapenko, Siniakova claim doubles title
Saturday saw No.2 seeds Jelena Ostapenko and Katerina Siniakova crowned doubles champions after they came through their third consecutive match tiebreak to defeat No.4 seeds Nadiia Kichenok and Raluca Olaru 6-2, 4-6, [10-8].
This week was the second time the pair have joined forces; previously, they reached the 2019 Dubai quarterfinals together. The result marks Ostapenko's first WTA doubles title since Doha 2018 and fourth overall, each with a different partner. It is Siniakova's 13th doubles title and just her fourth without regular partner Krejcikova.
The Latvian-Czech duo needed to save triple match point against Viktoria Kuzmova and Alexandra Panova in the quarterfinals before winning 5-7, 6-3, [11-9].
Kichenok and Olaru had been bidding to pull off a Russian double, having won their first title together - and first at WTA 500 level - in St. Petersburg this March.