Aliaksandra Sasnovich hopes to make the second WTA Tour final of her career at the Ladies Open Biel-Bienne as she faces Anett Kontaveit in the semifinals on Saturday.
The inaugural Ladies Open Biel-Bienne has seen some major shocks, with only two seeds making it to the quarterfinals, and a surprise semifinal sees Anett Kontaveit taking on Aliaksandra Sasnovich for a place in the final of the International event.
Kontaveit was the first to qualify for the semifinals at the Ladies Open Biel-Bienne – but not without flirting with disaster first. The Latvian, currently just inside the top 100 at world no. 99, edged the first set against Hobart champion Elise Mertens 7-5 and was leading in the second before suddenly collapsing. Mertens took the second set in a tie break, but Kontaveit regrouped to dominate the third set and seal a 7-5, 6-7(2), 6-1 win and make her first WTA semifinal of 2017 in Biel.
Kontaveit, 21 years old, was a talented junior who won the prestigious Orange Bowl, among other achievements, and she made her first real impact on the tour back in 2015 when she qualified for the US Open and went on to beat three opponents ranked inside the top 60 on her way to the round of 16 – Casey Dellacqua, 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Madison Brengle before losing to Venus Williams. Kontaveit broke into the top 100 as a result, but had dropped back out again by the end of 2016: She made WTA International semifinals in Acapulco and Guangzhou and quarterfinals in Shenzhen and Nottingham, and scored wins over the likes of Dominika Cibulkova and Caroline Wozniacki, but failed to get past the first round at the US Open (or any Grand Slam) and ended the year at world no. 188.
2017 did not start well for the Latvian, who lost in the first round of the Australian Open to Maria Sakkari, but she put the early defeat to good use, playing the $60k ITF Andrezieux Boutheon event during the second week of the first major of the year and winning the title. Kontaveit went on to qualify for WTA Budapest, Indian Wells – where she made the second round with a win over Misaki Doi – and Miami, where she beat Kurumi Nara and 32nd seed Ekaterina Makarova to make the third round before losing to Simona Halep, so she has clearly been finding some good form of late.
Ladies Open Biel-Bienne 2017 live stream: WTA tennis live from Biel
It's shown in Biel: Kontaveit opened with straight-sets wins over Heather Watson and Evgeniya Rodina before the aforementioned three-set victory over Mertens put her into the semifinals. Now the Latvian has a chance to make the first final of her career as she takes on Sasnovich on Saturday.
Sasnovich, whose career-high ranking of world no. 92 came back in 2014, is a couple of years older than Kontaveit at 23 and is probably most notable at the moment for her Fed Cup performances for Belarus. In the first round in early February, Sasnovich was instrumental in Belarus – in the absence of Victoria Azarenka – beating the Netherlands to make it to the semifinals, scoring wins over Michaella Krajicek and French Open semifinalist Kiki Bertens.
Belarus will also be looking to Sasnovich, their top-ranked singles player in the absence of Azarenka, when they host Switzerland in Minsk next weekend for the Fed Cup semifinals – and the Belarusian certainly seems to be finding some form in Biel. Runner-up to Begu in Seoul in 2015, Sasnovich had a rather quiet 21-28 season in 2016, during which the highlight was definitely a win over then-world no. 6 Karolina Pliskova – rather fatigued after her run to the US Open final – on her way to the quarterfinals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open as a qualifier. So far in 2017, with the exception of her Fed Cup feats, Sasnovich fell in qualifying for Brisbane and Hobart but played her way into the main draws of the Australian Open, Budapest – where she made the quarterfinals – and Miami, where she beat Alize Cornet before losing to eventual champion Johanna Konta.
Sasnovich had to qualify in Biel, too, which means she comes into this semifinal clash with Kontaveit on a five-match winning streak. Victories over Amra Sadikovic and Lina Gjorcheska obviously stood her in good stead once she had made her way into the main draw, with Sasnovich going on to beat French veteran Pauline Parmentier 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 and home favourite Viktorija Golubic 6-1, 6-4. Against Camila Giorgi in the quarterfinals, Sasnovich served (I thought) very well at key moments and played with a nice blend of patience and aggression that helped elicit unforced errors from the never very steady Italian and saw the Belarusian get the win, 6-4, 6-4.
Kontaveit and Sasnovich have played three times, with the younger woman – the more effortlessly powerful hitter, I believe – leading the head-to-head 2-1, although I think the only match Sasnovich won was also the only one the two have played on indoor hard courts. Kontaveit is a very promising young player who has been on good form of late and should, if she holds her nerve, be well-placed to make a first WTA final in Biel.
Kontaveit vs Sasnovich is scheduled on Centre Court in Biel on Saturday at 2pm local/1pm BST