Anett Kontaveit has won the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy WTA 500 tournament in an epic three-set battle with the tournament's top seed, Maria Sakkari (Greece). Kontaveit won 7:5, 6:7 (4), 7:5 in a match which lasted just short of three hours.
The win was the 26-year-old Estonian's first tournament win of 2022, on the back of a very strong showing in the second half of 2021 which led to her breaking the top 10 in women's players, the first Estonian ever to do so.
After a disappointing showing at last month's Australian Open, Kontaveit, currently ranked 9th in the world, progressed to the final in Russia, in which she was the second seed, by overcoming Belinda Bencic, Jill Teichmann (Slovenia), Jill Teichmann (Switzerland), Sorana Cîrstea (Romania) and Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia).
She herself up for a meet with Sakkari, who is ranked seventh in the world but who Kontaveit had already defeated in a recent WTA final, in Ostrava, in the Czech Republic, last September.
Anett Kontaveit's road to the St. Petersburg title, her 6th career title and 1st of the season.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) February 13, 2022
d. Teichmann 63 16 63
d. Cirstea 64 7 5
d.  Bencic 76 62
d.  Ostapenko 63 64
d.  Sakkari 57 76 75 pic.twitter.com/lpdESKy46o
Kontaveit broke her opponent's serve in game six of set one, to take a 5:2 lead, only for Sakkari to take control and string five-in-a-row together to take the first set 7:5.
Sakkari kept up her momentum early on in set two, taking the leading 2:0 before Kontaveit started to even things up. Kontaveit broke again in game six, though lost out on a set-ball a few games later, when the score was 6:5. While the set went into a tie-break situation, Kontaveit quickly took things to 6:3 in points, ending up 7:4.
Kontaveit coolly held her service and took set, match and with it the sixth WTA tournament win of her career so far.
Anett Kontaveit comes back from a break down in the 2nd and 2-5 in the 3rd, beats Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-6(4), 7-5 in 3h00 to win her 6th career title (5th in the last 6 months) in St. Petersbourg.— José Morgado (@josemorgado) February 13, 2022
Kontaveit on a 20-matches winning streak indoors.
She will be #6, new career high. pic.twitter.com/L5HwqA6LdG
The stats show just how evenly-matched things were: Both players served up three aces, though Kontaveit committed three double-faults; Sakkari, none.
Sakkari had a 64 percent first serve success rate to Kontaveit's 61.7 percent, while Kontaveit won 68.9 percent of her first service points, just 0.1 percentage point ahead of Sakkari.
Sakkari saved 71.3 percent of break-points to Kontaveit's 63.6 percent, and both players played 18 service games.
First serve return (Kontaveit, 31.3 percent, Sakkari 31.1 percent) and second serve return (Sakkari 52.2 percent, Kontaveit 51.1 percent) return points won were practically even-stevens, while Sakkari converted 36.4 percent of break points to Kontaveit's 28.6 percent.
Overall Sakkari won 124 points out of 245 (50.6 percent), with Kontaveit winning the remaining 49.4 percent – obviously, since noone else was playing.
The entire match lasted two hours and 57 minutes.
Post-match, Sakkari, who lost to Kontaveit in the Ostrava WTA final last September, said that: "I mean Anett, here we are once again! It's disappointing from my seide, but you reallu deserved it. You played some great tennis and showed great character," adding that the pair shared an off-court friendship.
Kontaveit said she was speechless but nevertheless wanted to thank her opponent: "I'm a little bit speechless still from this, but I would also like to congratulate Maria – what you said brought tears to my eyes a little bit; I think the same about you, you're such a great person, and I'm really happy that we get to share these finals together and play on these big stages, and I think so much of you and I'm sure you will have so much success in the future.
Kontaveit is likely to rise up in the WTA refreshed rankings on Monday, ERR's sports portal reports, likely to sixth place.
Sunday's win is her 20th in-a-row in indoor tournaments, a feat matched by only five players in the past 32 years, headed-up by Steffi Graf, who won 43 consecutive indoor games.
This article was updated to include post-match comments from both players.
Editor: Andrew Whyte