Kontaveit grabs Transylvania Open title and last place at WTA Finals

There was a measure of disappointment for Simona Halep and Romania as she failed to find the answers against Anett Kontaveit in the final of the inaugural Transylvania Open at Cluj-Napoca on Sunday, in stark contrast to the joy of the Estonian as she scooped up her 4th title of the year and secured the last remaining spot at the WTA Finals.

I think she is such a good player, and I really tried to just focus on myself and not think about the three times that I had lost to her. I just took it as a new challenge. Anett Kontaveit

“I’m still unsure of what’s going on!” Kontaveit told reporters after her 6-2 6-3 win over Halep. “I’m incredibly happy that I managed to play really well today and win the final.

“That was the main focus and I’m really, really proud of myself, that I managed to do that.

“I believe in myself a little bit more than I did a couple years ago, and I was trying to be aggressive but also stay consistent, and not go for too much.”

It was the 25-year-old’s 26th victory in her last 28 matches, and the win sees her rise to No 8 in the world on Monday.

It had been neck-and-neck as to whether she or Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur would land the final place in the elite 8 of the season-ending Tour Finals.

“So sorry, Ons, that I had to do this to you,” Kontaveit said on court after her first career win over Halep, a former World No 1. “I’m really looking forward to next year, hopefully we can both make it.”

Jabeur congratulated Kontaveit on Twitter and posted an image in which she playfully was strangling the Estonian, captioned:”Meanwhile in my head…”

In a separate tweet she added: “Apology accepted, but see you in Guadalajara. I will be going as an alternate.”

The WTA finals begin in Mexico on Wednesday 10 November after being relocated from Shenzhen, China, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Halep reached a WTA final for the 12th straight season after routing Ukrainian teenager Marta Kostyuk on Saturday, but she could not find the same A-game against Kontaveit, who is in tremendous season-ending form, brimming with confidence, and took a brisk 1 hour 10 minutes to dispatch the Romanian.

In fact, the No 2 seed did not drop a set in the tournament and, despite Halep having won all 3 of their previous meetings, dominated proceedings in the final.

After saving a break point and holding for 2-1, Kontaveit took charge, relying mainly on her powerful forehand to collect the next 3 games and a 5-1 lead.

Although Halep grabbed a break back, she couldn’t dent the Kontaveit offence as the Estonian broke again to wrap up the set.

The Romanian broke at the start of the second, but it was a short-lived revival as Kontaveit slammed another forehand winner on the baseline to level at 2-2.

Kontaveit continued to hit her spots with precision, earning another break for 4-2 with a backhand return winner squarely finding the line.

While Halep put all her effort into prolonging the match, fending off 3 championship points before holding for 5-3 with an ace, she could not stem Kontaveit’s momentum as the Estonian fired 2 consecutive forehand winners to garner 3 more, and then closed out the win with a blistering un-returnable serve.

“She deserved definitely to win the match,” two-time Grand Slam champion Halep said in her post-match interview. “I just tried to make it longer a little bit, but I couldn’t.

“But many positives this week: to play a final after a tough year, it’s always welcome.

“Even if it’s the smaller trophy, it’s a trophy, so I feel happy, I feel pleased with the way I played this week.”

Halep was bidding for her 3rd career title on home soil, having won in Bucharest on clay in 2014 and 2016, but has now not won a tournament since lifting the trophy in Rome in 2019, her season beset by a calf tear that forced the 30-year-old to withdraw from Rome 2021, and miss Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Her come-back was faltering until this recent autumn run of events in which she visibly has been finding her form after marrying her long-term partner, businessman Toni Iuruc, in September.


On Sunday, however, Kontaveit slammed down 21 winners to Halep’s 9, and won a staggering 55 percent of points returning the the Romania’s first serve, leading to 5 service breaks.

“I think she is such a good player, and I really tried to just focus on myself and not think about the three times that I had lost to her,” Kontaveit added. “I just took it as a new challenge.”

It was Kontaveit’s 6th final and 4th title of the season, all of which have come in the last 10 weeks, and she becomes the first player from Estonia to secure a place at the WTA Finals where, in the absence of World No 1 Ash Barty, she will join Aryna Sabalenka, Barbora Krejcikova, Karolina Pliskova, Maria Sakkari, Iga Swiatek, Garbiñe Muguruza and Paula Badosa in Guadalajara.

“The 2021 WTA Finals is shaping up to be one of the most exciting year-end finales, highlighting a singles field that features 6 athletes making their debut and 2 countries being represented for the first time, spotlighting the true global nature of the tour,” Steve Simon, WTA Chairman and CEO, said in a statement on Sunday.

“The combination of the WTA’s new stars with established champions will treat our fans to a very exciting week in Guadalajara and celebrate an end to a fabulous WTA season.”

The WTA also confirmed on Sunday that Barty has won the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals, finishing the season in pole position on the Leaderboard, having also achieved this feat in 2019.

The Australian, who is not be competing at this year’s Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara, captured a tour-leading 5 WTA titles in 2021, including her 2nd career Grand Slam at The Championships, Wimbledon in addition to successfully defending her title at the Miami Open presented by Itaú, and lifting further silverware at the Western & Southern Open (Cincinnati), Porsche Tennis Grand Prix (Stuttgart) and Yarra Valley Classic (Melbourne).

Earlier in the week, the doubles field was confirmed, with the following teams set to compete for the WTA Finals Martina Navratilova Trophy in Guadalajara: Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova, Shuko Aoyama & Ena Shibahara, Hsieh Su-Wei & Elise Mertens, Nicole Melichar-Martinez & Demi Schuurs, Samantha Stosur & Zhang Shuai, Alexa Guarachi & Desirae Krawczyk, Darija Jurak & Andreja Klepac, and Sharon Fichman & Giuliana Olmos.

Guadalajara is playing host to the season-ending tournament for this year only, with the event returning to its home in Shenzhen, China in 2022.

The 2021 WTA Finals features the Top 8 singles players and doubles teams on the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals, which includes 50 WTA tournaments and 4 Grand Slams, competing in a round-robin format with the singles champion lifting the WTA Finals Billie Jean King Trophy and the doubles champions earning the WTA Finals Martina Navratilova Trophy.

Transylvania Open/WTAtennis.com

Meanwhile, Irina Bara &  Ekaterine Gorgodze won their first WTA title on Sunday, bringing a victory home for Romania in Cluj-Napoca by lifting the inaugural Transylvania Open doubles trophy.

Unseeded Bara & Gorgodze edged Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic & Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove from the Netherlands, the 2nd seeds, in an 80-minute upset, 4-6 6-1 [11-9], to capture the crown.

It was a milestone moment for both Bara & Gorgodze, as they each won their first WTA title in either singles or doubles, with Bara, in fact, contesting her first WTA final of any kind.

Gorgodze had finished as a WTA doubles runner-up once before, alongside Arantxa Rus in Palermo in 2019, where they fell to Cornelia Lister & Renata Voracova.



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