From being ranked outside the top-100 to making her debut in the top-30 of the rankings, it has been quite an eventful year for Anett Kontaveit, the unheralded Estonian. Being just 22 years of age, Kontaveit earned her first top-10 wins in 2017 and also won her first career WTA title before running out of steam towards the end of the year.
Kontaveit owns a 43-20 win-loss record throughout the year, amassing a 6-9 record after Wimbledon, reflecting how bad her slump was. Nonetheless, the Estonian was still able to record two top-10 wins earlier in the year and both of them came on clay. Those wins also included a drubbing of world number one Angelique Kerber, winning eight straight games to prevail 6-4, 6-0. Half of her losses were suffered against players of a lower ranking.
After a disappointing opening-round exit at the Australian Open in the hands of Maria Sakkari, Kontaveit went on to claim the title at the ITF 60k event in Andrezieux Boutheon, where she was the third seed. The triumph gave her the momentum she needed, and she went on to qualify for the main draw at the Budapest Ladies’ Open.
Kontaveit next made the main draw of both the BNP Paribas Open and the Miami Open after successfully getting past the qualifying draws in both events. Arguably, the Estonian’s most notable victory during this stretch came against former top-10 player Ekaterina Makarova, but she fell to top players Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Simona Halep at Indian Wells and Miami respectively.
A long-awaited appearance in a WTA final finally arrived for Kontaveit. Coming into the Ladies Open Biel-Bienne as the world number 99, the Estonian unexpectedly stormed to the final after defeating several quality players along the way. However, she was so close, yet so far from her first title after the teenage sensation, Marketa Vondrousova, eventually proved to be too strong.
Kontaveit then got through the qualifying rounds and booked a spot in the tightly-packed main draw of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix where eight top-10 players were participating. Defeating world number 34 Ana Konjuh in the opening round, the 22-year-old went on to upset world number six Garbine Muguruza in three sets — and this was achieved on clay, Muguruza’s best surface. However, her run came to a sudden halt in the hands of the unranked Maria Sharapova, who was just returning from her suspension.
Kontaveit started to play like she was a top player — hitting the balls with conviction and a high level of confidence. Getting through qualifying at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia, the Estonian claimed the biggest win of her career over then-world number one Angelique Kerber in straight sets, clinching eight consecutive games to seal the victory under an hour of play. She followed it up with another drubbing over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, this time triumphing 6-1, 6-1 in 54 minutes. However, she fell to eventual finalist Simona Halep in her first ever Premier 5 quarterfinal.
After so many impressive performances, Kontaveit finally reached a new milestone in her career after winning her first career WTA title in ‘S-Hertogenbosch. She looked on fire throughout the week and defeated a couple of higher-ranked players in the process. Being unseeded and unheralded, she went on to beat Natalia Vikhlyantseva in a relatively one-sided final.
Her good run continued when she returned to the clay courts of Gstaad in between the grass-court season and the hardcourt swing. Being the overwhelming favorite to grab her second silverware of the year, Kontaveit lived up to expectations and stormed to the final without facing many problems. Unexpectedly, she came up short to defending finalist Kiki Bertens in the final, missing out on a golden opportunity to claim the title.
Kontaveit has been unable to take her chances at the Grand Slams this year, though she was often handed with tough draws. She disappointingly fell to Maria Sakkari in the opening round of the Australian Open before crashing out in the second round of the French Open to world number five Muguruza — despite just beating the Spaniard weeks ago and also led by a set and a break before crumbling mentally. The Estonian had a tricky draw at the Wimbledon Championships, brushing 29th seed Daria Kasatkina off the court in just 55 minutes before falling to Caroline Wozniacki, the fifth seed. Kontaveit initially served for the match but once again, her frail mentality proved to be her downfall.
Towards the end of the year, Kontaveit had to endure through several low points. She lost four consecutive three-set matches from Gstaad to the US Open, with all her losses coming against fellow elite players (Bertens, Lucic-Baroni, Kvitova, Safarova). She went winless throughout the US Open Series which soon caused her to fall out of the top-30.
Another four-match losing streak ensued, but this time all of her losses were concluded in straight sets. Kontaveit lost to two players outside the top-100 in the process and she failed to capitalize on her favorable draws. It was an incredibly poor end to the year especially after what she achieved months before, but she still managed to end the year inside the top-40.
Season Grade: B-
It has definitely been a breakthrough year for Kontaveit, who made her first career WTA finals before grabbing some excellent wins over the top players. However, her late-season collapse undermined all her achievements earlier in the year, but this now gives her the golden opportunity to capitalize on her opportunities and rise in the rankings with nothing much to defend during the second half of the year.