A seemingly unstoppable Anett Kontaveit has won the Transylvania Open, on Halloween of all days, beating local Romanian hero and former world number one Simona Halep, 6:2, 6:3, bagging her third WTA title in a little over a month. The scoreline doesn't quite reflect a late effort from Halep which saw a particularly protracted penultimate game unfold.
Kontaveit has also leapfrogged to 8th place in the WTA rankings on the back of the win and her recent performance, her highest-ever world placing.
In set one, the Estonian, still ranked 14th in the world going into the game, never fell behind in games and led from game three onwards. In the second set, after starting two games down, she strung together five games in a row before an epic eighth game saw Halep rescue three match points as things swung from deuce to advantage no fewer than seven times before the Romanian held her serve. Kontaveit was unflappable in the next game, and cleanly served to 40:0 and then set and match.
On August 17th, Anett Kontaveit was on a 5-match losing streak after losing to Ons Jabeur in 1R Cincinnati.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) October 31, 2021
Since August 17th: Went 26-2, 4 titles, and will surge from No.30 to No.8 on the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals.
On Monday, the Estonian will make her Top 10 debut. pic.twitter.com/ItzmYiJgw1
Kontaveit, 25, from Tallinn, had won all her preceding rounds in the tournament in straight sets, something of a specialty these days, including a 6:3, 6:1 semi-final victory over Rebecca Peterson (Sweden) to book her place in the final at the BT Arena in Cluj-Napoca.
Simona Halep, now ranked 18th and a former world no 1, had overcome Ukrainian Marta Kostjuk in straight sets, 6:0, 6:1 to reach the final.
Kontaveit went into the game with a 25 out of 27 winning streak, including victory in the VTB Kremlin Cup last Sunday, and at Ostrava, the Czech Republic, a month earlier.
The first set, which started around 5.30 p.m. Estonian time, saw each player hold their serves on the first three games – in the third, Kontaveit saved a break point before going on to break Halep's serve to bring the score-line to 3:1. Two games later she was 5:1 up and, while Halep managed to break Kontaveit's serve also, in the next game, with things at 5:2 it was simply a matter of the Estonian returning the favor and breaking Halep's service to take the set 6:2.
The second set looked like the Kontaveit juggernaut was going to wrap things up within the hour. After going 2-0 down early on – Halep broke Kontaveit's serve in the opening game – the Estonian strung together five easy games on the trot, to see the score-line reach an already familiar 5:2, just one game away from the match.
After a shaky start to the next game, Halep, who was serving, mounted a tremendous challenge, saving three match-points from 40-15, to bring things to deuce, then advantage Halep. Kontaveit neutralized not only this advantage, however, but three more, the first of which came off an ace, until the Estonian picked up her own advantage – and with it another match-point.
Halep was not done, however, taking things back to deuce, then advantage, deuce again and finally, eighth time around, advantage and then game.
With Kontaveit 5:3 up and serving, she was still looking set for victory, though a querying of a line-judge took up yet more time.
Nonetheless, Kontavaeit pulled out three unanswered service points to take it to 40:0 in points, and three match-points in hand.
In the end, Kontaveit needed only the one, serving for set, 6:3, and match. The entire encounter took a little under an hour-and-a-quarter.
Post-match, Kontaveit said she was speechless on winning and on her recent form.
As always, she was always effusive in praise for her opponent, too.
"Simona, I've been looking up to you for so many years and you have been my role model. You've won such a lot and I'm honored to share the court with you."
Kontaveit also apologized to another good friend, Ons Jabeur, whose place she took in the season-ending ATP/WTA competition in Guadalajara, Mexico, mid-November, by ending up eighth in the rankings, a placing which the Tunisian had previously occupied.
"Hopefully next year we will both be in the year-end tournament," Kontaveit added, also thanking Dmitry Tursunov, former top player who became her coach in summer, a relationship which has led so far to three WTA wins and a rocketing ranking.
"The last few months have been wonderful. Thank you so much for being here with me," she said.
Simona Halep was first to reciprocate with congratulations, saying of Kontaveit's new placing: "You deserve to be there and you had a wonderful year. Most of all, enjoy it because it's a very special day."
Kontaveit served up two aces and committed one double fault to Halep's three aces and four double faults, in Sunday's final.
Kontaveit's first service success rate stood at 66 percent compared with 57 percent for her opponent.
The Estonian converted five out of 11 break-points; Halep, two out of three.
As noted, Kontaveit has replaced Ons Jabeur (Tunisia) in eighth spot in the WTA rankings to earn a place in the ATP end-of-season tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico, a showcase competition attended by the top eight players worldwide.
Editor: Andrew Whyte