Anett Kontaveit arrived at the USTA Billie Jean National Tennis Center just over a week ago for the first time since 2012. Back then, she was here to play the US Open Junior Championships. At 16 years of age, the Estonian would make it to the finals of the girls’ singles before losing to Samantha Crawford of the United States. To get to that point, the No. 12 seed upset top-seeded American Taylor Townsend.
The following week, Kontaveit (pronounced Kon-ta-vay) would be ranked fourth in the world for ITF Juniors. She had no delusions at that time that it would be easy to make it to the big stadium.
“I guess I was hoping to be, of course, but you never really know,” she admitted. “It’s a long way from the juniors to the pros.”
Kontaveit has not been taking any shortcuts. She’s been paying her dues on the ITF circuit the last three years and, with a ranking of No. 152, had to come through qualifying in order to earn her place in the women’s singles round of 16.
“I’ve really just taken it match-by-match," she said. "In the qualifying, there were three tough matches and I’ve just taken it match-by-match (since) and focused on each and every one.”
The 5-foot-9 teen, who trains in Istanbul with an Australian coach, Goran Marijan, attributes a lot of her success at the Open to her mental toughness.
“I’ve had this fighting spirit in me since I was a little kid," she said, "and obviously it’s really special for me to be here, playing for the first time and getting this far. I don’t really have anything to lose so it’s only to gain. I’m really just enjoying playing on the big courts and against good players. “
The next match for the 19-year-old will definitely be on a big court with a good player. She’s set to face No. 23 Venus Williams Sunday afternoon in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I’ve never played her before,” said Kontaveit. “I know what a great champion she is. She’s won this tournament quite a few times. I’m just going to try to do my best and try as much as I can. That’s really the goal for me. I think I’m going to continue with my rhythm. Just my normal, regular routine.”
While Kontaveit has no plans for all the money she has won at the Open, which totals more than double her previous earnings the entire year, she hopes to spend some time seeing more of New York.
“I’ve been to Times Square. I’ve seen around a little bit, not too much, though," she said. "I haven’t done all the touristy things you can do.”