Anett Kontaveit capped off her surge up the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals Leaderboard on Sunday by winning the inaugural Transylvania Open and securing the final qualification spot for the 2021 Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara. After finishing her regular season with back-to-back titles in Moscow and Cluj-Napoca, she will take a 10-match winning streak into Guadalajara. On Monday, Kontaveit will become the first Estonian to break into the WTA Top 10.
The numbers behind Kontaveit's string of results over the past two months are astounding. Coming into the Cleveland 250 in late August, Kontaveit had lost five straight matches, including a first-round loss to Ons Jabeur in Cincinnati the week before. She was sitting her at No.30 in both the rankings and Porsche Race to the WTA Finals Leaderboard.
"Honestly, after losing to Ons in Cincy, I was just hoping to just win a few matches," Kontaveit told WTA Insider. The idea of turning a complete 180 on her season was well outside her hopes for the final months of the season.
But Kontaveit snapped her losing streak in Cleveland and would go on to lose just two matches for the rest of the regular season.
Kontaveit came into the 2021 season with just one title, which she won on the grass at 2017 s'Hertogenbosch. But this season, she won four of the last seven events she played, in Cleveland, Ostrava, Moscow and Cluj-Napoca.
Kontaveit went 15-0 at the indoor events in Ostrava, Moscow and Cluj-Napoca, losing just one set over that span. Some of her wins came against Paula Badosa, Maria Sakkari, Garbiñe Muguruza, Petra Kvitova, Belinda Bencic and Simona Halep. In all, she finished the season winning 26 of 28 matches, with her sole losses coming to Iga Swiatek at the US Open and Ons Jabeur at Indian Wells.
WTA Insider spoke to Kontaveit after her 6-2, 6-3 win over Simona Halep in the Cluj-Napoca in the final, an event she had to win in order to qualify for the WTA Finals. As a mentally and physically exhausted Kontaveit explained, she went on auto pilot and let the chips fall where they may. And with that, the field for the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara is set.
WTA Insider: Has it sunk in what you're doing and how you're playing right now?
Kontaveit: Absolutely not. I have no idea what's going on [laughs].
I've just been trying to focus on each match, not try to think ahead. Today I was really was focusing on what I had to do in the match. I knew I had a very difficult task in playing Simona. She's such an incredible player.
I thought it was such a longshot of reaching the WTA Finals. I really was trying to focus on what I had to do and that was the most important thing today.
WTA Insider: You were on a five-match losing streak after Cincinnati. You've lost two matches since, winning four titles, you're 15-0 indoors, and you'll make your Top 10 debut and WTA Finals debut. People want to know if there was a triggering event to spark this run.
Kontaveit: I think Dmitry [Tursonov, her coach] definitely brought some fresh air to the team and gave me a new perspective. He's helped me take things more easy. I've been able to enjoy playing. That's really been the key, that I've been able to have a good time on the court.
Honestly, there's just been so much going on, all the tournaments in the row, having to play matches every day, traveling to new places. So I really haven't had time to think. I've really been on auto pilot and just doing it, trying my best each match.
I've played so many matches when you look back on it and I've played some great tennis, but of course it hasn't been easy on the body. I've seen the physios every day this week, trying to recover as well as I can. Maybe I'm doing it better than I was a couple of months ago, taking care of my body and making sure it's getting what it needs.
On August 17th, Anett Kontaveit was on a 5-match losing streak after losing to Ons Jabeur in 1R Cincinnati.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) October 31, 2021
Since August 17th: Went 26-2, 4 titles, and will surge from No.30 to No.8 on the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals.
On Monday, the Estonian will make her Top 10 debut. pic.twitter.com/ItzmYiJgw1
WTA Insider: On Monday, you'll become the first Estonian break into the WTA Top 10. That must have felt so far away from you just two months ago.
Kontaveit: It's something that I've dreamed about since ... I don't even know. Honestly, when I started playing tennis I didn't even think I'd make Top 100, then you get Top 100 and you set new goals.
Of course it's been a goal for quite a few years now, but honestly, I don't even believe it until I see it on Monday. It's been a tremendous effort at the end of the year, playing every week, so many matches. The mental effort, just focusing for each match has definitely been an effort and a half.
WTA Insider: When you hired Dmitry this summer, did you make the Top 10 a goal for this season?
Kontaveit: Oh, no. No, no, no, absolutely not. Honestly, after losing to Ons in Cincy, I was just hoping to just win a few matches.
I definitely didn't think ahead too much. You can plan so many things but life has other plans. So I've really been living in the moment and taking each match as they come and really having a great time on court, actually, which is strange to say.
WTA Insider: You had to run the table over the past two weeks to earn the final qualifying slot for the WTA Finals. Mission accomplished. What are your thoughts on qualifying for Guadalajara and what you've achieved?
Kontaveit: Honestly, I have no idea. I don't even know how to answer that.
I didn't think anything like this was ever possible. Even after winning Moscow, I came here and thought, "This is such a longshot. What am I even doing? I'm exhausted. This is so hard."
But I just kept going each match. It's so tough to comment about it because I hadn't thought about it because I didn't think it was realistic.
WTA Insider: You and Ons had some very funny exchanges throughout the week as you battled it out for the final spot. Was it challenging to keep your focus?
Kontaveit: Ons is such a great person. We've been friends for years, we're similar in age, and I've known her since juniors. She's such a wonderful girl. I wish it wasn't her.
Honestly, I don't even know what to say. I didn't think any of this was realistic. I genuinely thought Ons was going to the Finals. I would have been really happy for her because she deserves it. She's had a really great year and I've lost to her a couple of times. She's a really great player and an even better person.
I guess that's tennis for you.