In February, Anett Kontaveit and Petra Martic squared off for the first time in the Dubai quarterfinals. Kontaveit would fall in straight sets on that day, but in Saturday's Palermo semifinal, a different story unfolded on the red clay.
The 24-year-old could not seem to miss, precisely lining up targets without hesitation as she stepped into the court. Kontaveit would sustain her high level of intensity and focus to post a 6-2, 6-4 win against the No. 1 seed.
Kontaveit's depth and weight behind her shots left Martic feeling overwhelmed, at times leading her to make uncharacteristic errors. The world No. 15 also lacked a bit of energy as she struggled to find her rhythm and footing in the breezy conditions.
Martic managed to get back on serve late in the second set with her left leg heavily taped. However, she would leave the court at 4-5 for treatment and relief. Having time to sit and reflect, the fourth-seeded Kontaveit would come back on the court, hungry to finish the bout on a strong note.
"It was a fantastic win for Anett Kontaveit, who played such fantastic tennis almost from start to finish," Tennis Channel commentator Chanda Rubin said. "Got a little tight at the end, but what a way to pull it back. That has to give her even more positive confidence."
The world No. 22 shook off her worst two games of the match to ultimately advance and reach the final. Kontaveit, who has earned a return to the Top 20 with her run this week, will face Fiona Ferro for the right to become the first winner of the WTA's reopening.
In the second semifinal clash, Camila Giorgi came out with the same energy as Kontaveit, blazing to a 5-0 lead against Ferro. With a stoic face, the Italian pushed Ferro behind the baseline with heavy groundstrokes to take the first set.
However, Giorgi was not able to sustain her pin-point accuracy and numerous double faults made it difficult for the world No. 89 to hold serve. Ferro would also slowly adjust to Giorgi's pace by staying in rallies and forcing her opponent to become impatient. The Frenchwoman would continue to pick up her spirit to answer back and force a third set.
"Well to play this kind of offensive tennis, not only do you have to be extremely physically fit, which obviously she is," Brett Haber said.“But you have to also be mentally sound, you have to be able to say it's ok to miss some of these balls, because no one is going to be able to make all of these shots at that pace. She's found a way to do that."
It was this determined mentality that saw her save match points against Dayana Yastremska in the quarterfinals but for Giorgi Saturday, her margin for error was too small. With tremendous defense, Ferro swung the match in her favor, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, to reach Sunday's title match.
"I just told myself to keep going, to try to make it hard for her," Ferro said in a post-match presser."Even if she was winning points, it had to be hard. I just tried to focus on every point."
Ferro and Kontaveit have never met at the tour level, with the Estonian taking their lone ITF meeting in 2016. Each are aiming to lift their second WTA singles crown.