Match of the Day: Petra Martic vs. Anett Kontaveit, Palermo semifinals

Match of the Day: Petra Martic vs. Anett Kontaveit, Palermo semifinals

Since last season, Martic owns a sizzling 19-3 record on clay and beat the Estonian shortly before the WTA tour shut down in March. Which will move to within one win of claiming a second career singles title Saturday?

Petra Martic has quietly evolved into one of the world’s premier clay-court players. In addition to owning perhaps the most graceful slide on tour, her combination of length, quickness, and variety has paved the way for a sizzling 19-3 record on clay dating back to last season. Armed with one of the game’s most effective kick serves, as well as a tremendously disguised drop shot, she can defeat opponents in a variety of ways. The ability to win with a multitude of tactics is one of the most important skills a professional tennis player can possess. 

One of Martic’s most underrated skills is her net coverage. Oftentimes, she will follow her drop shot to the net and gobble up opponent’s replies with her quick twitch reactions and length. 

Martic might not be the cleanest ball striker, but she is extremely effective in keeping her opponents on their toes. If she ever feels overwhelmed during the rally, she can knife a skidding slice or float it deep and remove all pace. Here, Martic noticed Sasnovich creeping forward, so she punched the slice deep enough to throw her off balance.

 Most players avoid coming forward on clay, but not Martic. 

Martic’s semifinal opponent, Anett Kontaveit, is one of the cleanest ball strikers. Though she has a tendency to fluctuate between hot and cold throughout the match, she typically finds her range during crunch time. If Martic serves a low percentage, Kontaveit will look to take control of the point with her powerful return, just like she’s done all week. 

Martic’s variety and athleticism against Kontaveit’s pure striking and aggression has all the makings for a thrilling match. In late February, it was Martic who tipped the scale in the pair's Dubai quarterfinal, but if we've learned anything this week, it's not to place too much weight on what went down before the pandemic. Kontaveit has the ability to hit anyone off the court, but in the end, Martic’s clay-court prowess should prevail. 

The pick: Martic in three sets