WUHAN, China - Anett Kontaveit has notched up both a personal and national milestone at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open, becoming the first Estonian player to reach a Premier 5 final after Wang Qiang retired due to a left thigh injury while trailing 6-2, 2-1, (30-0) in their all-unseeded semifinal.
It is the first final of the season for the 22-year-old, who reached her first Premier 5 semifinal in Rome this May, but fourth overall following three at International level last year - and a result that ends Wang's hopes of also hitting a national milestone in becoming the tournament's first ever home finalist.
In the opening stages of the match, it was the Chinese No.1 who seemed sharper, holding with a brace of unreturned serves and breaking as Kontaveit offered up a series of groundstroke errors.
But the Estonian didn't take too long to find her range. Her trademark backhand down the line came to join the party in the third game, but the forehand wing was even more lethal in retrieving the break, firing three rockets - one down the line, one magnificent angle and one on return - to stamp her presence on the match.
From there, Kontaveit's form was relentless as she continued to smack winners from both sides, tallying 13 in the first set and 18 overall. The 2017 's-Hertogenbosch champion's turnaround was absolute and increasingly one-sided: from 0-2 down, she reeled off 18 out of the next 24 points, including 13 consecutively in the middle of the set, and seven games in a row.
But as the set drew on, it became apparent that Wang was physically ailing. The 26-year-old has played a packed schedule across multiple continents in recent months: since the end of July, she has competed in first China, then North America, then Indonesia for the Asian Games, then back to the USA for the US Open, before embarking on an Asian swing that had seen her play 14 matches in the past three weeks.
Trailing 2-5, Wang took a medical timeout, after which even more strapping was added to her thigh - but on resumption, it was clear that her movement remained hampered, and Kontaveit was able to hammer two more winners past the Nanchang and Guangzhou champion all too easily.
Though Wang came up with a forehand return winner in the second game of the second set to halt the streak of games against her, it did not halt the pain, with her serve now visibly affected. In tears as she was broken again, the finest run of Wang's career came to an unfortunate end as she called it quits trailing 2-1, 30-0 in the second set.
For China's new heroine, there will be a battle to regain fitness ahead of next week's Beijing Open. But for Kontaveit, there is the chance to walk away with the biggest title of both her career and her country's history. Previously, Kaia Kanepi had competed in three Premier finals, winning two - Brisbane 2012 and Brussels 2013. But no player from the Baltic state has ever won a Premier 5 championship - and Kontaveit will take on either No.16 seed Ashleigh Barty or Aryna Sabalenka with that prize at stake.