Anett Kontaveit has made the AO fourth round for the first time Anett Kontaveit has made the AO fourth round for the first time

Kontaveit carries on charge

Match Report

Just when it seemed Jelena Ostapenko had discovered the formula to dispatch Anett Kontaveit and keep her Australian Open campaign alive, her opponent adapted in kind. As the reigning French Open champion heads for the exit, the No.32 seed is through to the second week of a major for the second time in her career with a 6-4 1-6 6-3 victory.

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Back in 2015, when Kontaveit last faced Ostapenko at a grass-court ITF event in the UK, the duo were still teenagers finding their feet on the senior tour. The Estonian, 18 months Ostapenko’s senior, ran away with victory that day 6-1 6-2. 

Fast-forward two-and-a-half years, and it is the 20-year-old with the Grand Slam title to her name and the single-digit seeding, but while the score was far closer and the stage far grander, the result remained the same. 

“It’s definitely amazing to be in the fourth round for the first time here at the Australian Open,” Kontaveit said, beaming from ear to ear at the thought. “I’m super-happy. 

“I played a great first and third set – my energy dropped in the second, but she played a really great set too. She’s very tough, she plays so aggressive. I was trying to stay with her in that third set – I got the break and that gave me confidence, and I think that was the difference tonight.” 

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On MCA, the scene of Ostapenko’s dramatic collapse against Karolina Pliskova at the same stage a year ago, the traits that have sent her skyrocketing to the top of the women’s game were clear to see – as were the improvements the young Latvian can still find in her game. 

For it was a sluggish start to the third-round match from Ostapenko, who failed to hold serve even once in the opening set. Three breaks back were not enough to salvage the situation as Kontaveit, happy to extend the rallies and run down her opponent’s metronomic corner-to-corner tactics before pouncing upon a loose ball, secured the first set in 36 minutes. 

Ostapenko was struggling to match the world No.33’s consistency, breaking down during the rallies to cough up 18 unforced errors to Kontaveit’s nine. But the match took a surprising turn after the opener when the No.7 seed called for the trainer. 

Ostapenko received a medical time-out ahead of the second set for treatment to a right thigh injury that flared up when she landed off-balance following a serve. It seemed innocuous enough at the time, but the impact was clear once play resumed. 

Unforced errors
46 Jelena Ostapenko
25 Anett Kontaveit

Returning to court with her left thigh heavily strapped, Ostapenko limped gingerly with each serve, but when the ball was live she played with the aggression of a wounded animal. Point construction gave way to destructive first-strike tennis, the Latvian pulling the trigger as early as possible in the rallies. And wouldn’t you know it, it worked. 

Ostapenko broke in the opening game before gritting her teeth to consolidate, then broke once more for a 3-0 lead. Kontaveit, somewhat stunned by the reversal in fortunes, made inroads in the fourth game, but not enough to prevent the Latvian from securing a 4-0 lead from deuce with an ace. A third break followed before Kontaveit claimed one game back to avoid a bagel, Ostapenko’s movement improving markedly as the set had worn on. 

Onto the decider, where Ostapenko’s physical recovery met Kontaveit’s mental recovery and tactical readjustment, trusting herself to find the baseline and driving the ball deeper, striking nine of her 19 winners when it mattered most. The duo traded breaks – the 14th and 15th of the match – before the 22-year-old hammered a backhand return on the 20th point of game seven to move ahead, roaring her delight after holding for a 5-3 lead before, fittingly, breaking once more for the win. 

Up next for the No.32 seed is a showdown with Carla Suarez Navarro with a place in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal up for grabs, Kontaveit’s first shot at the last-eight club at a major since her US Open debut in 2015.

20 Jan 18
Match highlights form Jelena Ostapenko against Anett Kontaveit on the third round of the Australian Open 2018.

Jelena Ostapenko v Anett Kontaveit match highlights (3R)