The inaugural Tallinn Open featured the first professional meeting between Estonia's top two players, and it was No.1 seed Anett Kontaveit who triumphed, besting Kaia Kanepi 6-4, 6-4 in their home-soil semifinal showdown in front of a packed house.
World No.4 Kontaveit grabbed the win in 1 hour and 20 minutes, extending her winning streak at indoor hard court events to 24 straight match-wins.
"I felt like I was confident in what I came to do here today on the court and I felt like I made it happen really well," Kontaveit said afterward. "I started aggressive and was playing confidently.
"I think it was a special moment for [Kanepi and I] sharing the court here, being in Tallinn in front of the home crowd, of course. It was a special experience and I was trying to enjoy it as much as I could."
In Sunday's final, Kontaveit will take on No.7 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, who battled for over three hours before toppling No.2 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 6-2.
Kontaveit and Krejcikova have a 1-1 head-to-head. Kontaveit beat Krejcikova at last year's WTA Finals, but Krejcikova avenged that loss with a semifinal win at Sydney this year -- the only semifinal Kontaveit has lost in her last 13 semifinals on tour.
"I’m just really looking forward to playing the final in front of the home crowd," Kontaveit said. "Barbora’s such a tough opponent, we’ve had tough battles in the past year. I’m ready for a tough fight, but also really looking forward to it."
🇪🇪 🆚 🇪🇪— wta (@WTA) October 1, 2022
The top two Estonians playing in front of their home crowd for a spot in the #WTATallinnOpen final = 🙌@AnettKontaveit_ | @KanepiKaia pic.twitter.com/GPaFZ3vb48
Former World No.2 Kontaveit and seven-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Kanepi displayed their power games with aplomb on Saturday. Ultimately, Kontaveit's groundstrokes were cleaner on the day, with 23 winners to 17 unforced errors.
Kanepi's 18 winners were undone by 25 unforced errors, and she was broken by Kontaveit three times. By contrast, Kontaveit dropped serve just once in the match.
Kontaveit opened the match with a break of serve and romped from there to a 5-2 lead. Kontaveit let three set points slip away in that game, but the top seed had a second chance to serve out the set at 5-4, and she closed that game out with an error-forcing smash.
Kontaveit cracked a backhand return winner to break Kanepi in the opening game of the second set as well. That proved to be the only break of the set, and despite some fiery winners from Kanepi, she was never able to regain level footing.
Serving for the match at 5-4, Kontaveit fired two aces, including on her first match point, to make her fourth final of the year. Only two other players have reached at least four finals this year: World No.1 Iga Swiatek (7) and World No.2 Ons Jabeur (6).
In the day's first semifinal, 2021 Roland Garros champion Krejcikova needed three hours and 22 minutes to fend off Bencic and reach her first final since a runner-up showing at Sydney in January.
Bencic had beaten Krejcikova in both of their previous meetings, including on her way to last year's Olympic gold medal. However, on Saturday, Krejcikova only dropped serve once all day and successfully fought back from a set down despite going 3-for-20 on break points.
Krejcikova charged back from 5-3 down in the first set and held two set points at 6-5. However, Bencic survived that peril to enter the tiebreak, where she converted her second set point after a strong forehand return was followed by a backhand winner.
There were no service breaks in the second set as the pair moved into another tiebreak, where powerful serves and groundstrokes allowed Krejcikova to jump to a 5-1 lead. Bencic saved one set point with a forehand winner, but she ceded the second with a double fault.
After two 76-minute tiebreak sets, the third set was much swifter as Krejcikova maintained her momentum from the second-set tiebreak. An ace gave the Czech a hold for 5-2, and though she needed six match points in the final game, Krejcikova broke again for her first win over Bencic.