Anett Kontaveit used her Porsche Tennis Grand Prix experience to excellent effect on Wednesday, upsetting 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, 7-5, 6-4 to become the first into the quarterfinals.
"It was a very close match and I'm very happy to be through," she said after the match. "I definitely felt like the first set was more on and off; I served really well throughout the match, and that helped me. But, I had a lot of chances to get the break in the first set and I couldn't convert, so that was a little bit frustrating. That's something I would have liked to be able to have done better today."
While the No. 3 seed was making her Stuttgart debut, Kontaveit was runner-up at the indoor clay event, and channeled those memories through a 94-minute victory on Center Court.
The former world No. 14 had enjoyed a solid, if unspectacular start to the 2021 season, becoming a co-champion at the Grampians Trophy ahead of a third- and quarterfinal-round finishes at the Australian Open and Qatar Total Open, respectively.
"It's always nice to have a good win under your belt. I definitely feel like I'm playing well, and I like being here in Stuttgart, so a day like this definitely gives me a good feeling."
Facing Kenin for the first time, the Estonian surely looked to take advantage of the lack of rhythm that’s plagued the American since her Melbourne title defense ended at the hands of Kontaveit’s countrywoman, Kaia Kanepi. She later underwent surgery for her appendix and is now 1-3 since leaving Australia.
A tense opening set saw no breaks of serve in the first 11 games; Kenin bravely navigated a titanic eighth game that featured six deuces and four break points, but the battle couldn’t win her the war. Kontaveit stepped in to convert her 10th break point of the set to clinch it when Kenin erred on a backhand reply.
The second set saw Kenin looking to level, and the 22-year-old appeared on course to do just that when she opened up a 2-0 lead. Kontaveit responded in emphatic fashion, reeling off the next five games.
Kenin saved a match point when it came time for Kontaveit to serve it out, and though she nearly evened the set at five games apiece, the 25-year-old proved too tough on return, drawing one last forehand error from the former world No. 4 to advance into the last eight.
In all, she struck an impressive 31 winners to 20 unforced errors and maintained a formidable 66% first serve percentage while engineering 16 break chances on Kenin’s serve, winning four.
Kenin will ultimately rue her errors off the ground, ending the match with 29 unforced errors to 19 winners, and was unable to make sufficient inroads on the Kontaveit serve, earning just five break points in two sets, converting two.
Kontaveit will next face either No. 5 seed Aryna Sabalenka or German qualifier Anna-Lena Friedsam. Sabalenka closed Center Court action on Tuesday with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Zhang Shuai.
"I've played both of them, and they're both good players," Kontaveit said. "Anna-Lena is playing on home soil but of course, Aryna is a very tough competitor, who plays extremely aggressively. These courts are fast, so we'll see what happens. Whoever I have to play, I'm feeling well, and I like to be back here in Stuttgart. I hope it'll be a good match."
Around The Grounds...
Earlier in the day, 2018 champion Karolina Pliskova needed three sets to knock out German lucky loser Tamara Korpatsch, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.
"First of all super happy that I’m through," the frustrated former No. 1 opened in press. "So, of course, that’s the main thing. Other than that I didn’t see many really good things. Maybe they were a couple of good points but it was not the best performance."
Pliskova has struggled to find her range throughout the 2021 season, taking three losses to Jessica Pegula in Doha, Dubai, and Miami. Her road in Stuttgart won't get much easier as she'll next face 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in a rematch of their 2018 Stuttgart quarterfinal.
"Of course, first rounds are always a bit nervous, especially fist match on clay," Pliskova said. "So, I didn’t really expect an amazing match today but yes, I’m just going to hope it’s going to be better. Of course, the opponent is also playing a different style, different tennis and I know her which also helps a bit that I know what she’s going to play. This girl, I never played, I never practiced with her, so then it’s always a bit tricky. So, let’s hope for a better match."