Anett Kontaveit came back from a one-set deficit to beat Wang Xiyu (China) in a lengthy round one encounter Tuesday evening at her home event, the Tallinn WTA250 tournament, winning 3:6, 6:2, 7:5.
The world number four's first appearance at the inaugural event was long-awaited, and the pair were greeted by Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart.
"It was a typical first-round match in a WTA tournament," she said afterwards.
"I felt that my opponent played some very good tennis, and as is often the case with younger players, they hit very well, but don't find the necessary stability to follow-up, which is what I was hoping for, and which saved me in the end – ie. that I was a little more stable."
In set three, after a fight-back from Xiyu: "Things got very nervous, from 5:1 to 5:5. I felt that her level was rising again and there were a few anxious points from my perspective," Kontaveit went on.
"Sometimes a game can turn around at the snap of a finger, however, and it was important to keep fighting and do my job as well as possible, for the happy ending today," she added.
Wang Xiyu, 21, from Taizhou, ranked 58th in the world, started the game in fine form and barely made a mistake, taking things to 4:1 after two breaks, then Kontaveit got one break back, but in the ninth game Wang managed to break again and win the set 6:3.
In set two, things went the Estonian's way instead, after she got a break in the opening game, with a second break in game seven and winning 15 points in-a-row to close out the set 6:2.
Kontaveit started the decider in the same style, winning 13 points in a row, breaking twice and not conceding a single point on her own service, racing to 5:1 and with victory in sight, later facing two match-points with the score at 5:2.
However, Wang pulled things back to 5:5, meaning six games was not going to be enough for the winner of the set, either way.
However, a tie-break did not ensue in the end, as Kontaveit went on to break Wang's serve then hold her own, converting the fourth match point she faced into a win.
The Estonian served up four aces and committed three double faults through the match, compared with three and three for the Chinese player.
Both committed 18 unforced errors; Kontaveit won 96 of the points played, Want, 84, while Kontaveit realized two thirds of the break points presented to her (six out of nine) compared with a third for Wang (five out of 15).
Playing in front of a home crowd did not cause any additional pressure, Kontaveit added; quite the contrary: "Actually, I feel that playing in front of the home crowd brings me extra energy. Before the game, I didn't feel that I was nervous. Of course, I was very happy to see how many people came to the hall today."
Kontaveit next faces Czech player Tereza Martincova (WTA 75th), who beat Mirjam Björklund (Sweden, WTA 134th), 7:6 (6), 6:3. Björklund had reached the main table via qualifying.
Kontaveit and Martincova have played professionally twice before, with the Estonian winning both times, most recently in Cincinnati last month.
Looking ahead to the third clash at the FORUS tennis center in Tondi, Tallinn, Kontaveit said: "I just played one very difficult game against her. She likes to strike flat and her playing style suits the conditions of an indoor hall. It will definitely be another competitive game. I hope that the audience will come along again and give me an extra boost."
Kontaveit is also in action in the doubles, partnering Erin Routliffe (Australia) to face the Laura Siegemund (Germany) and Nicole Melichar-Martinez (US) in the opening game Wednesday afternoon.
Nuudi out, Kanepi to face Ostapenko
Meanwhile, the third Estonian player to take the court, Maileen Nuudi, made her debut at WTA-level Tuesday, against Donna Vekic (Croatia), ranked 85th in the world.
Nuudi, ranked 604th worldwide, went out in straight sets, 6:2, 6:0, saying post-match that: "I was hoping to fight back a little better, but my opponent served extremely well. It was very difficult for me to score points from her serve, and to some extent nerves came into play."
"In general, I tried to keep my attitude positive, she added.
"I felt that the crowd cheered me on and kept their fingers crossed."
"I am very grateful to have had the opportunity and at the next occasion, I'll be smarter. I now know better how WTA tournaments work and what kind of competition to expect. I'm definitely richer in experience now," Nuudi went on.
Another of Estonia's younger stars, Elena Malõgina, had gone out in round one on Monday.
Malõgina and Nuudi partner each other in the doubles, however, and will face Wang Xinyu (China) and Miyu Kato (Japan) in the opening round.
Next up is veteran star and world number 32 Kaia Kanepi, who plays Latvian Jelena Ostapenko Wednesday in the singles.
Ostapenko, ranked 17th in the world, arrived in Tallinn Tuesday ahead of the game and underwent her first training session since picking up a minor leg injury in the WTA final in South Korea last week, where she was runner-up. She experienced no significant issues in the training session, and the game with Kanepi will go ahead from around 6 p.m. Estonian time.
The pair have played once before, at Eastbourne, England, back in 2018, when the Latvian won. Ostapenko also defeated Kontaveit in the final of the same tournament, last year.
In other games, third seed Beatriz Haddad Maia (X, WTA 15th) had a tough game against Wang Xinyu (China, WTA 87th - see above), eventually prevailing 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 in an encounter that lasted two hours and 17 minutes. She faces 17-year-old Linda Noskova (WTA 105th) in round two.
Noskova had to qualify for the main table, but beat Diane Parry of France in three sets in her first round match proper.
Editor: Andrew Whyte