Adrenaline, Instinct Are Kontaveit’s Allies In Ostrava Win

Anett Kontaveit (photo: @JTBankaOpen/Twitter)

WASHINGTON, October 19, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

No. 8 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia defeated No. 33 Ekaterina Alexandrova from Russia, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6), for her 20th victory of the pandemic-interrupted season in the opening match of the WTA Premier J&T Banka Ostrava Open in Ostrava, Czech Republic Monday afternoon.

In an entertaining contest inside cavernous Ostravar Arena that saw a total of 15 breaks of service, Alexandrova served for the match three times – at 5-2, 5-4 and 6-5 – during the third set without ever reaching match point. Then, at 6-all during a third-set tie-break, she squandered two match-point opportunities, ahead 6-4 and 6-5, both on her serve. Finally, on Kontaveit’s first match point try at 7-6, the 24-year-old Estonian put away the victory with a focused, volley winner at the net that capped a 14-shot rally and finished off an enduring 61-minute final set. The victory improved her win-loss record to 20-10 and broke a two-match losing streak dating back to Rome a month ago.

Kontaveit, who overcame double-break down and went on to win the final four points of the two hour and 14-minute match, outpointed Alexandrova 109-99. Despite being broken seven times, she persevered and broke Alexandrova eight times. Indeed, as Kontaveit showed, every point matters.

During her virtual videoconference, Tennis TourTalk asked Kontaveit how she stayed focused through the adversity of being down a double-break in the final set, then facing match points – and, just as importantly, why she thought she won. She said, “I was so close to being out of the tournament. So, I just tried to stay in the match and I never really gave up. I tried to keep going, to be a little more aggressive when I was down 5-2 in the third set. I felt maybe I’d taken a little bit off my shots. I knew I had to put a little bit more on my shots.”

By the end of the match, Kontaveit admitted, it was adrenaline and instinct – plus her fighting spirit – that were her best allies.

“I was behind on the scoreboard so badly; I was just trying to stay in it, to keep fighting. It was important that I never gave up or gave in to [Ekaterina]. She had to earn it. I knew I had to be more aggressive. I felt I had to push back. Sometimes, when you take risks they pay off.

“It’s always really important to get through these tough matches. I think it gives you some confidence and I have another match now that I can look forward to. [Winning today] definitely gives you positive emotions and confidence.”

Next, Kontaveit faces 73rd-ranked qualifier Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, who upset No. 40 Magda Linette from Poland, 6-1, 6-3. If she wins, her likely quarterfinal opponent would be either third seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus or, possibly, qualifier Coco Gauff. The Ostrava tournament, the third hard-court event that Kontaveit has played in since the August relaunch of the WTA Tour, is the second-to-the-last of the season for the Estonian. She said she will finish 2020 next month at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz, which begins on November 9.

When Kontaveit was asked by Tennis TourTalk what she hopes to accomplish in the limited time remaining this season, she said: “I don’t have specific rankings or results sorts of goals. My main goal is to keep my level up and try to be focused and keep myself motivated for these last few tournaments. I want to do well, hope to do well. We’ll see how it goes. I just want to take it match by match. The [Ostrava] draw is so strong. Everybody is a tough opponent. We’ll see how it goes.”

In other first round matches Monday:

• No. 23 Maria Sakkari of Greece advanced over 68th-ranked wild card Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-3, in back of 28 winners, and next will face No. 1 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine. Sakkari’s win avenged a straight-set loss to the Czech on clay at Palermo in August.

“The previous match was weird because we played at 1 a.m. It was pretty late for me, personally, to have much energy,” Sakkari told Tennis TourTalk during a videoconference chat after her victory. “Similar tactics to last time. I executed much better than then and to be honest, it was a better performance overall.

“[Kristyna’s] a lefty, so it makes things a little bit tricky. The fact I was trying to take off some time from her serve and to step in and attack it helped me a lot. When I had the chance to break her, I did it.”

Sakkari broke Pliskova four times in nine rise and was broken only once. She outpointed Pliskova 73-50 during their one hour and 19-minute match.

• No. 85 Barbora Krejcikova, who is enjoying a career-best singles ranking after achieving fame as a Top 10 doubles competitor, defeated No. 121 Tereza Martincova 7-5, 6-1 in an unseeded, all-Czech matchup. Next, she will face No. 4 seed Victoria Azarenka.

“The Top 100 for a long time was one of my goals,” Krejcikova, who achieved a career-best No. 85 last week after reaching the round of 16 at the French Open, told Tennis TourTalk. “During the coronavirus break, I told myself, ‘OK, if I never make it it’s alright.’ I decided I wouldn’t think about it anymore and just enjoy tennis and I would try to do my best on court. Now, out of nowhere, I’m Top 100. I feel more relaxed – more carefree – because it’s something I always wanted to achieve. Now I have it and it’s a huge relief for me.” 

Around Ostravar Arena

Six singles matches highlight Tuesday’s order of play, including No. 6 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, ranked 19th, versus 75th-ranked Russian qualifier Daria Kasatkina. Featured evening matches include 65th-ranked Czech wild card Katerina Siniakova against 55th-ranked qualifier Coco Gauff of the United States followed by No. 37 Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic versus No. 32 Ons Jabeur from Tunisia.

During the day session, Lexington titlist Jennifer Brady of the United States, ranked 26th, takes on 29th-ranked Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine; 47th-ranked qualifier Veronika Kudermetova of Russia faces No. 31 Donna Vekic from Croatia; and No. 35 Zhang Shuai from China opposes No. 28 Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic.