Kanepi starts season with tough victory in Melbourne

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Kaia Kanepi. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonian tennis player Kaia Kanepi started her official playing season with a hard-fought victory in Melbourne, Australia, where Kanepi is preparing for the Australian Open.

Kanepi faced off against world 129-ranked Australian Astra Sharma in the opening round of the WTA 500 Gippsland Trophy tournament on Sunday.

The 25-year old Sharma opened the match well, taking the opening set of the match 6:1, she also took a 5:3 lead in the second set, after which Kanepi rattled off four consecutive games to take the set 7:5. There were five service breaks in the deciding third set with the Estonian finally taking the decider 6:2.

Kanepi served up two aces and committed ten double faults with her first serve success percentage at 51.9 percent. Sharma served three aces and five double faults in the two hours and ten minutes of action.

"From the first set I only remember the electronic voice that said 'out'. I felt that I made mistakes in the opening set by playing agressive, I tried to be calmer in the second. I played more balls inside to get a feel. I cannot say how I won the second set while falling behind on the break, I guess I was lucky," Kanepi told Delfi Sport (link in Estonian).

Kanepi will face off against Belarusian Arina Sabalenka (WTA 7th) in the second round. The Belarusian player is on a hot streak, having taken her last 15 matches, finishing 2020 with two consecutive tournament victories and also triumphing in the opening tournament of this year in Abu Dhabi. Kanepi has not played the 22-year old Sabalenka before.

Kanepi said she is happy to play against great competition, such as Sabalenka. "I think it is good to play such a tough opponent before the Australian Open. I have not played her, nor felt how her ball flies. As much as I have seen from TV, she plays very agressively, I do too. Whoever plays best on that day and commits fewer mistakes will win," the Estonian said.

Estonian top tennis player Anett Kontaveit (WTA 23rd) has been quarantining in her hotel room after positive cases of the coronavirus were found among players on the plane flying to Australia, which Kontaveit also was flying with. She will take part in a tournament created especially for the quarantining players (72 of them) called the Grampians Trophy, set to begin on Wednesday.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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