St Petersburg | Sakkari and Kontaveit to battle for WTA 500 title

Maria Sakkari, the No 1 seed, will meet 2nd-seeded Anett Kontaveit in the final of the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy on Sunday. 

Tomorrow’s match against Maria, she’s a very good player, a very consistent player. It’s going to be very tough, but I think I have to bring my best game, be ready for everything, and be positive with myself and fight through all the situations that are coming my way tomorrow. Anett Kontaveit

The Greek needed over 3 hours to battle past Irina-Camélia Begu from Romania, 6-4 6-7(4) 6-4, while Kontaveit of Estonia had a far easier passage with her 6-3 6-4 win over Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko that took a little more than an hour.

Sakkari had to fight back from a break down in the 3rd set to advance into the 4th final of her career, as Kontaveit stretched her run of indoor wins to 19 straight matches, which includes titles at Ostrava, Moscow and Cluj-Napoca at the end of last season.

Sakkari and Kontaveit have met 12 times before, and split the wins evenly, with Kontaveit winning 3 of their 5 meetings last year.

“It was a very tough match,” Sakkari said after her win, “! think Begu played really, really well.

“The level of the match was super-high.

“I had to come up with some very tough shots and very physical tennis, but I’m very glad I did it, and I’m super excited to be in the final here.

“As I mentioned on court, it’s one of my favourite tournaments, so I’m just very excited that I was able this year to reach the final.

“I still have one more match to go, and I’m going to try my best to win the tournament.”

Ranked No 7 in the world, Sakkari secured a break at 5-3 in the first set against her 56th-ranked opponent but Begu broke back immediately after the longest rally of the set before the Greek broke again to pocket the opener.

The last 3 games of the set had gone to the returner, and the trend continued into the second as Begu broke Sakkari in the first game, only to be pegged back again for 2-2, and proceedings marched on with the Romanian using pinpoint hitting at the end of increasingly complex rallies to keep herself in the hunt

It required a tiebreak to resolve the matter, in which the Romanian held her nerve to swing the momentum her way, and she levelled the match, prompting the top seed to hurl her racket in frustration.


Irina-Camelia Begu pushed Maria Sakkari hard but could not get past the top seed

© Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

Begu broke Sakkari for a 2-0 lead in the final set, but a streaky set saw Sakkari break the Romanian twice in a row to take her own break lead at 3-2, before Begu returned to level footing with yet another break for 3-3.

A topsy-turvy stretch ended with Sakkari ahead by a break at 5-4 and serving for the match.

In that game, 2 forehand winners gave the top seed 2 match points, but Begu swatted both chances away, and the Romanian held a break point to extend the match further.

Another strong forehand got Sakkari out of trouble, and she closed it out with a passing shot winner after 3 hours and 4 minutes of play.

Sakkari was the slightly sturdier in the end, converting 7 of 13 break points, against Begu’s 5 for 12, and she was also marginally better on the return, winning 40 percent of Begu’s first-service points and 56 percent off the 31-year old Romanian’s second serve.


Anett Kontaveit reached the St Petersburg final with a straight sets win over Jelena Ostapenko

© Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

Later, Kontaveit reached the final with a comfortable victory over former French Open champion Ostapenko.

The 26-year-old World No 9, who lost the WTA Finals final to Garbiñe Muguruza last year, won 4 tournaments in 2021 and is carrying her momentum into this season, out-playing the 7th seed, 6-3 6-4, in 71 minutes.

This was Kontaveit’s 19th win on the trot in indoor events, and her first final of 2022.

“It was a very competitive match,” she said. “I really had to bring very good energy to come through on top today.

“She’s a very aggressive player, so I had to be really ready for her big shots, and just be as consistent and take my chances when I could.

“I felt like I did that really well today. I was very positive and had good energy and worked really hard today.”

It was a blistering display of ball-striking by both but the Estonian played the cleaner, more precise match against the 2017 Roland Garros champion, who is ranked 25., finishing with 29 winners to just 16 unforced errors, while Ostapenko’s fiery game produced 38 winners against 41 unforced errors on the day.

Ostapenko got off to a hot start, leaping out to a 3-0 lead, but Kontaveit kicked into high gear from there, picking off winners while reducing her miscues to almost nil as she reeled off 8 games in a row to lead 6-3, 2-0.

The Latvian pulled back into the match in the latter stages of the second, saving 3 break points to hold for 3-3, but, at 5-4, Kontaveit found some impressive return winners, often from the backhand side, to break Ostapenko once more and claim another indoor victory.

“Tomorrow’s match against Maria, she’s a very good player, a very consistent player,” said Kontaveit. “It’s going to be very tough, but I think I have to bring my best game, be ready for everything, and be positive with myself and fight through all the situations that are coming my way tomorrow.”


Jelena Ostapenko could not out-hit Anett Kontaveit on Saturday

© Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images


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