A little over 24 hours after defeating former Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova, Anett Kontaveit continued her winning ways in Monterrey, toppling top seed Sara Errani 6-1, 6-3 in 53 minutes to book her place in the last eight of the 2016 Abierto Monterrey Afirme. On Friday afternoon, Kontaveit will face off against American qualifier Nicole Gibbs for a spot in the semi finals.
Kontaveit Explodes Out of the Blocks; Runs Away with Opening Set
If the first game was any indication of a close match, it was anything but from the second game onwards. After Errani opened proceedings with a hold of serve, it was all Kontaveit, who was timing the ball exceptionally well. A very clean ball striker from the back of the court, the Estonian number one responded with a hold of her own before stringing together a series of winners to draw first blood, breaking at the first time of asking to open up a 2-1 lead. Despite a fierce fight back from Errani in the following game, Kontaveit held her ground, coming back from 0-40 down to consolidate the early break and mount a 3-1 advantage. The importance of that hold definitely can't be underestimated as from there, the 20-year-old began to play with a lot more freedom, moving her Italian counterpart from side-to-side while targeting Errani's weaker wing: her forehand. As a result, it was only a matter of time until the WTA Rising Star claimed a second break of serve to go up 4-1, and was now within touching distance of taking the opening set. From there, the world number 91 continued to assert her authority by mercilessly consolidating the double break with an emphatic hold at love, which stretched her lead to 5-1. With Errani struggling to time the ball and Kontaveit timing the ball to perfection, it only seemed fitting that the set ended on yet another forehand winner from the Estonian number one to take the opening set 6-1 in 23 minutes.
Kontaveit Shows No Signs of Letting Up; Shuts Out Errani in 53 Minutes
In contrast to the first set, the second began with a pair of breaks, before both players exchanged a series of holds until the sixth game. As the set progressed, you could just sense that Kontaveit was beginning to pull away with this second round encounter, and it was only a matter of time until the Estonian broke for a fifth time to go a set and 4-2 to the good. Errani, however, was not prepared to go down without a fight and began to show some of the trademark fighting spirit that got her as high as number five in the world. Playing a more aggressive brand of tennis, the top seed broke straight back at love, and seemed to have finally found the timing that had eluded her for the majority of this second round clash.
However, Kontaveit refused to back down, and continued to play the aggressive brand of tennis that had put her in this winning position in the first place. Utilizing all the angles of the court to her advantage, the Estonian responded with a break at love of her own, and was just a game away from securing the biggest win of her career. This time, Kontaveit proved she needed no second invitation as she closed out the match with a blistering inside-out forehand winner - one of the many keys to her victory today - to seal a comprehensive 6-1, 6-3 victory over the world number 17.
Kontaveit and Errani by the Numbers
"I guess my style is to stay aggressive, and that's what I tried to do," Kontaveit said in her post-match interview. "I think this is definitely my best win ranking-wise."
As Kontaveit said, that is exactly what she tried and needed to do in order to be successful against such a tactically astute counter-puncher in Errani. Breaking six times and winning a solid 60% of her first serve points, the Estonian was extremely efficient, and never really let the Italian find any sort of rhythm throughout the match, despite a couple of blips that made it appear that the top seed was beginning to find her range.
Next Up for Kontaveit: Nicole Gibbs
Next up for Kontaveit is American qualifier Nicole Gibbs, who is coincidentally celebrating her 23rd birthday today after defeating compatriot Christina McHale by retirement earlier in the day. The pair have met thrice before, with the Estonian holding a slender 2-1 lead in the head-to-head record. Regardless of who wins on Friday afternoon, it will be a great opportunity for both women to make the semi finals of a WTA event, which is almost uncharted territory for them.