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Anett Kontaveit vs Natalia Vikhlyantseva Ricoh Open tennis live: Young guns battle for maiden WTA title in s-Hertogenbosch

Andrew Hendrie in WTA Tour 18 Jun 2017
  • Anett Kontaveit vs Natalia Vikhlyantseva is live from s-Hertogenbosch at 12.00pm local time on Sunday (11.00am BST)
  • First meeting between the pair
  • Winner will claim a first WTA title
Anett Kontaveit (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

A battle of the youngsters awaits in the Ricoh Open final in s-Hertogenbosch on Sunday as Anett Kontaveit and Natalia Vikhlyantseva target a first WTA title.

Either Anett Kontaveit or Natalia Vikhlyantseva will capture a maiden WTA title on Sunday in the Ricoh Open final as the two talented rising stars clash in what should be brilliant tussle. Kontaveit has been in superb form over the last couple of months and has made a successful immediate transition from clay to grass, while Vikhlyantseva has taken her promising game to new levels in s-Hertogenbosch, with her favourite surface of grass really bringing out the best in her. Both players have very bright futures ahead of them, but who will strike first and claim the silverware at the Ricoh Open? Kontaveit and Vikhlyantseva take to court around 12.00pm local time on Sunday (11.00am BST).

Following on from an excellent clay court season, Kontaveit hasn’t missed a beat since stepping out onto the grass this week - and her draw hasn’t been easy, with the Estonian surviving a trio of three-set matches to secure her spot in the final.

Kontaveit defeated the big-serving Kristyna Pliskova 6-7(5) 6-3 6-1 in the opening round before taking down former Wimbledon semi-finalist Kirsten Flipkens 3-6 6-1 6-2 to move into the quarter-finals. A straight sets win over the dangerous Carina Witthoeft followed, while Kontaveit was again stretched to three sets in the semi-finals, edging Lesia Tsurenko - who beat Kristina Mladenovic earlier in the week - 6-3 6-7(0) 6-2 to advance to her second WTA final of the season.

"I'm so happy to be in the final and won't take anything for granted," Kontaveit said. "I won't prepare any differently to how I've been all week. I come into every tournament wanting to do as well as I can and to get this far is unbelievable. The courts here are great and really allow me to play my best tennis.
"It's my second WTA final and hopefully, I can get my hands on the title tomorrow."

Kontaveit’s first WTA final came earlier this season at Biel, where she was toppled by another youngster - Marketa Vondrousova - in the title match. The 21-year-old, who has always been a talented player but has taken a couple of seasons to find her feet on the main tour, has really solidified herself as one of the more dangerous unseeded floaters at big tournaments in 2017 - and if she keeps playing like this, it won’t be too long until she’s seeded herself.

Kontaveit began the season by bagging an ITF title in Andrezieux-Boutheon, but that would be her last venture down to the second-tier of women’s tennis, with the Estonian really kicking into gear around March, qualifying for Miami and making the third round before going on that run to the final in Biel. Kontaveit stepped up another gear during the European clay court season, qualifying for Stuttgart and beating Garbine Muguruza before falling to Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals. The big wins didn’t stop there as Kontaveit again qualified for Rome and then conquered World No. 1 Angelique Kerber 6-4 6-0 on her way to the quarter-finals, where she was eventually stopped by Simona Halep. The 21-year-old received a tough draw at Roland Garros, running into defending champion Muguruza in the second round. It ended up being one of the best matches of the tournament, but after claiming a first set tiebreak Kontaveit couldn’t quite get over the line, falling 6-7(4) 6-4 6-2.

Can Kontaveit avoid another loss in a WTA final to a fellow youngster on Sunday?

Natalia Vikhlyantseva (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
Natalia Vikhlyantseva has been in sensational form this week in s-Hertogenbosch, progressing through to her first WTA final with the loss of just one set, eliminating Corneila Lister 6-1 6-4, Andrea Petkovic 6-3 5-7 6-2, Arantxa Rus 6-3 6-2 and the powerful Ana Konjuh 6-3 7-5 in Saturday’s semi-finals. That duel was the battle of players born in 1997, and it was Vikhlyantseva who came through it with flying colours, knocking out the more accomplished fifth seed in straight sets.

"I feel very lucky right now. I was not expecting this," Vikhlyantseva said. "Right now, I'm in the final. It's a very happy moment for me today, and I will enjoy tomorrow. I will try and forget the occasion and play a normal match. 
"Everybody has their favourite surface - clay, hard... but grass is my surface - and with a result like this, I like it even more.”

Vikhlyantseva has been a woman on a mission over the last few years, improving her ranking by over 1000 places since 2014, and at a current mark of No. 77 (projected to rise to at least 65), she’s well and truly cemented herself as a top 100 player at just 20 years of age in 2017. Vikhlyantseva began the season by qualifying for the Australian Open and winning a round in the main draw before going down to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, while she backed that run up by reaching the Premier-level St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy semi-finals, beating Daria Kasatkina en route to the final four before falling to eventual champion Kristina Mladenovic.

Vikhlyantseva didn’t have the best clay season, losing her last five matches on the trot before transitioning to her preferred grass, but there’s no doubt the Russian is back to her best form right now. It’s a tremendous chance for both Vikhlyantseva and Kontaveit to win a maiden WTA title, and it should be an entertaining showpiece, with both players capable of doing big damage with their powerful games on grass. Kontaveit has done the hard yards in 2017 (not to say Vikhlyantseva hasn’t), but with the pair so evenly matched on the surface, I just feel like this is the Estonian’s time to cap her great 2017 with a title.

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Anett Kontaveit vs Natalia Vikhlyantseva Ricoh Open tennis live: Young guns battle for maiden WTA title in s-Hertogenbosch

A battle of the youngsters awaits in the Ricoh Open final in s-Hertogenbosch on Sunday as Anett Kontaveit and Natalia Vikhlyantseva target a first WTA title.

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