Can Anett Kontaveit take the Next Step?

Anett Kontaveit Doha
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Anett Kontaveit had an outstanding 2021. She won four titles and climbed into the world’s top ten for the first time in her career, becoming the first Estonian to do so.

Kontaveit has continued her form into 2022, winning her sixth career title in St.Petersburg, and by doing so has extended her unbeaten run indoors to 20 matches. The world number seven is only the sixth female player to achieve this feat since 1989. So why has the Estonian not been able to replicate this form in grand slams?

Anett Kontaveit and her New Coach

Kontaveit has consistently been a top 30 player since 2018, but before last year had always lacked that razor edge. A lot of credit has to go to her new coach Dimitry Tursunov, a former top 20 singles player who has also coached current World #2 Aryna Sabalenka. Kontaveit began her partnership with the Russian following the Tokyo Olympics, after amicably splitting with her coach of three years, Nigel Sears.

Since this partnership began Kontaveit has looked unstoppable at points. She won the title in Cleveland–her first since 2017–followed by four consecutive indoor titles. She has been in inspired form, ending 2021 with the most wins on the WTA Tour alongside her good friend, Ons Jabeur.

Due to the sensational second half of Kontaveit’s 2021, she earned her spot at the WTA Finals in Guadalajara. Accompanied by the seven other best players on tour, Kontaveit reached the biggest final of her career–just falling short to two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza. Although she was not the winner on the night, it was visible how far Kontaveit had come in such a short space of time.

Kontaveit’s underwhelming Grand Slam record

Despite the justified positivity around Kontaveit’s career at the moment, there is a definite question over her performance at major events. This was epitomized in the most recent Australian Open, where the Estonian crashed out in the second round to highly talented youngster Clara Tauson.

Kontaveit’s best performance in a Major was actually in Melbourne in 2020. She reached the quarterfinals that year, but was defeated convincingly by Simona Halep. There was hope that she would better this performance this year on her favorite surface, but she had no answer to Tauson.

Some have argued that the Estonian has a ceiling to her game. She is very good at competing, but can be figured out by the more intelligent players on the WTA tour. Her recent head-to-head record against the top players appears to disprove this, but if Kontaveit does not have a deep run in a Slam this year when she is arguably at her peak, questions will be asked.

Her first opportunity to prove those naysayers wrong will be at the current WTA 1000 event in Doha. Kontaveit has won titles at WTA500 and WTA250 level, but lifting the trophy in Qatar would really make a statement.

It is the first WTA1000 event of the year, and the Estonian has battled impressively to the semifinal. She will face the seemingly unstoppable Jelena Ostapenko on Friday, who is coming off the back of a title in Dubai.

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