There was no stopping No.8 seed Anett Kontaveit, as she continued her impressive form at the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara on Tuesday night. She overcame No.4 seed Maria Sakkari 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the final in her tournament debut. Kontaveit will now take on former No.1 Garbine Muguruza in the title clash. The 25-year-old Estonian, who is now a perfect 7-0 in the semifinals this year, finds herself on the verge of a third successive title and fifth overall, which would tie World No.1 Ashleigh Barty for the most this season. Ranked No.8, Kontaveit can finish the season at No.6 if she manages to win the Billie Jean King Trophy.
“I still can’t quite believe that I’m even here and I’m playing against the best players at such a prestigious tournament,” Kontaveit said. “I’m just so proud of myself that I managed to do this and so happy to be competing at this level and just trying to take it all in.” The final will be a rematch of the last round-robin encounter in the Teotihuacan group. Muguruza had won it 6-4, 6-4 to end Kontaveit’s 12-match winning run. The Spaniard leads the head-to-head 3-2.
Tour-leading 48th win of the season 👊
— wta (@WTA) November 17, 2021
Kontaveit had hit 32 winners, which is 15 more than her opponent, and has now won 29 of her past 32 matches. Her win over Sakkari is her tour-leading 39th hardcourt win of the season and also ties Ons Jabeur for the most wins this season with a 48-16 record. On the other hand, the defeat has dropped Sakkari to 1-7 in the semifinals this season.
Kontaveit’s ability to hold on to her service games has been her biggest strength lately. Coming into Tuesday night’s match, she had been broken just twice over three matches, and both came against Muguruza in her final round robin match. She has won 92.9% of her service games. In a rampant opening set, the same trend continued. Kontaveit sailed without facing a break point while breaking Sakkari twice on the way to clinching the opener in just 27 minutes.
At the start of the second set, Sakkari did incredibly well to hold on to her serves. The Greek star finally earned her first break point after 70 minutes of play. With Kontaveit serving at 3-4, Sakkari made maximum use of the break point, as she held serve to force the duo into a deciding set.
In the final set, Sakkari struck first by breaking Kontaveit to lead 3-2. However, the Estonian came back impressively, striking right back to break at love. “I think the turning point in the third set maybe when I went a break down, 3-2, just managed to tell myself that if this is the last match of the season, then I might as well enjoy it,” Kontaveit said. “I feel like I got some freedom from that and just started playing better and managed to turn that set around.”
Serving at 4-3, Sakkari built a quick 40-0 lead before Kontaveit made it to deuce. Kontaveit held her ground in a decisive game before earning the break point, as she broke to a 5-3 lead. “Serving on the game, I just saw the finish line,” Sakkari said. “Things went downhill.” Kontaveit then sealed the win after 2 hours and 2 minutes.
Speaking about the match, Kontaveit said, “I feel like the last few months have really showed me that I can play really well, I can beat great players consistently. I think I sort of have this self-belief now. When I came here, of course, I had nothing to lose. Every time I step on the court, I still think I can win the match, just do well.”
On the other hand, Sakkari said, “Today was a missed opportunity from my side. It’s definitely from my side. Obviously there’s a lot of respect from my side to Anett’s game. I think today I was just very close to taking that chance. I just wasted it. That’s why it hurts so much. It’s not that it was just bad luck, it’s that I threw away another chance. It hurts.”