The Estonian tennis team rallied from a 3:2 deficit on the first day of the Merko Cup, to defeat Latvia 6:5 after solid performances from the women players. The overall victory was achieved after an intense, one-set mixed doubles match which Estonia won 7:5.
The competition featured both WTA (women) and ATP (men) players in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
After Wednesday, Latvia took a 3:2 lead, with only the Estonian women's singles matches succesful for Estonia.
The first match of Thursday ended well for Estonia, however, when veteran star Kaia Kanepi (WTA 99th) was able to get the better of Anastasija Sevastova (WTA 43rd). The victory did not come easy however, as Kanepi fell to 0:4 and 2:5 in the first set. She was able to equalize at 5:5 and finish the first set off 7:6 (1). Sevastova won the second set 6:2 but Kanepi dominated the third set, taking a 9:1 lead in the deciding set played to 10 and ended up taking the third 10:5, leading to a 2:1 victory for Estonia.
The next match saw an intense battle between top-ranked Estonian men's player Jürgen Zopp (ATP 540th), and 18-year old prodigy Karlis Ozolins, who stands at 1,133rd on the ATP rankings, but sixth on the junior's rankings.
In a match which took over two hours, Zopp and Ozolins both took hard-fought set victories. In the third set super tie-break, Ozolins was able to get off to a 8:4 lead but Zopp was able to equalize at 8:8. The Latvian ended up taking the two deciding points and won 2:1 (7:6 (4), 6:7 (5), 10:8), giving Latvia a 4:3 lead overall.
Kontaveit and Kanepi lost the first set of their doubles match 4:6 but were able to capture the second set 7:5. In the final-set tiebreaker, the pair was able to take a 8:1 lead which Latvia was able to close to 8:7 but the Estonian top female players capped off a 10:7 deciding set, winning 2:1 (4:6, 7:5, 10:7).
In the second to last regulation match of the Estonian-Latvian exhibition tournament, recently crowned Estonian champion Vladimir Ivanov (ATP 738th) faced off against former ATP top-10 man Ernest Gulbis (ATP 162nd). Gulbis, considered the greatest Latvian tennis player of all time, defeated Ivanov 2:1 (7:6 (6), 3:6, 10:7), giving Latvia a 5:4 lead prior to the final match of the tournament.
In a highly expected match-up of the Baltic neighbors' top racquets, Estonian Anett Kontaveit (WTA 22nd) and Latvian Jelena Ostapenko (WTA 41st) faced off to decide if the visiting Latvian team will take the overall victory.
Kontaveit opened with a quick 6:2 first set and was able to take a 5:2 lead in the second but the former WTA 5-seed Ostapenko knocked off four consecutive games and took the second set 7:6 after making quick work of Kontaveit in the tie-break.
In the 10-point deciding final set super tie-breaker, Ostapenko took a 7:5 lead but the 24-year old Estonian finished off the match, winning 5 consecutive points and tying the overall score of the tournament 5:5.
After a long match day, it was decided that a mixed doubles match would decide the victor of the tournament. The one-set match, played with substitutions, was taken by the Estonians 7:5, giving them a 6:5 final victory.
After beating two strong rivals over two days, Anett Kontaveit was fired up, saying: "Of course it feels great to beat our neighbors! If I'd have lost the match, it wouldn't have been much of a problem. But victory always gives positive emotions."
Kontaveit said Thursday's match against Ostapenko was difficult due to it being the second intense game in two days, after a long break between this type of tournament.
She said her opponent picked up her game in the second set, with Kontaveit's body starting to ache after effects of exhaustion. "My left buttock started bothering me when landing on serves, that's from playing two days in a row. In a competitive situation, the body is under pressure and that's natural. I was hesitant on my serves, landing on my left foot also gave me pain."
Kontaveit said she is in good form overall, though, and the tough practice sessions over the last few months have paid off.
The next official WTA tournament is scheduled for August 3-9 in Palermo, Italy. The next men's ATP tournament currently scheduled is the Western & Southern Open in New York at August 22-28, with the U.S. Open coming the week after. After recent developments regarding COVID-19 in the U.S. however, this tournament is still in jeopardy.
Results of Merko Cup:
Wednesday, July 29:
Vladimir Ivanov - Karlis Ozolins 0:2 (1:6, 3:6)
Anett Kontaveit - Anastasija Sevastova 2:0 (6:1, 6:2)
Men's doubles Zopp-Ivanov - Gulbis-Ozolins 0:2 (6:7 (1), 4:6)
Kaia Kanepi - Jelena Ostapenko 2:0 (6:3, 6:4)
Jürgen Zopp - Ernests Gulbis 0:2 (3:6, 4:6)
Thursday, July 30:
Kaia Kanepi - Anastasija Sevastova 2:1 (7:6 (1), 2:6, 10:5)
Jürgen Zopp - Karlis Ozolins 1:2 (6:7 (4), 7:6 (5), 8:10)
Women's doubles: Kontaveit-Kanepi – Sevastova-Ostapenko 2:1 (4:6, 7:5, 10:7)
Vladimir Ivanov – Ernests Gulbis 1:2 (6:7 (6), 6:3, 7:10)
Anett Kontaveit – Jelena Ostapenko 2:1 (6:2, 6:7 (1), 10:7)
Mixed doubles tie-breaker: Estonia - Latvia 7:5
Estonia - Latvia 6:5
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste