Kanepi victorious in Australia, overcoming tournament fourth seed

Kaia Kanepi.
Kaia Kanepi. Source: (Siim Semiskar/ERR Sport)

Kaia Kanepi is through to the third round of the Gippsland Trophy in Melbourne, Australia, after defeating world number seven Arina Sabalenka of Belarus in three sets, 6:1, 2:6, 6:1. Sabalenka was seeded fourth in the competition.

The Estonian ended Sabalenka's 15-game winning streak, including three WTA tournaments, in the process, at a competition which is in effect a warm-up for the Australian Open, which starts next week.

Kanepi had defeated local player Astra Sharma in three sets in the opening round.

Kanepi herself is now on something of a streak too; the win is her 12th in a row, and also the 12th in her career over players ranked in the top 10, ERR's sports portal reports.

"I felt much better, I got into the rhythm of the game from the first match," Kanepi said in a post-game interview. 

"I wasn't very confident in the first game, because it's been a long time since the previous tournaments. I still have to get used to the bright sunlight," she added.

"I play aggressively, and if I do that well, it's difficult for others to beat me," Kanepi, 35, from Haapsalu, added.

The first set was nonetheless a procession, with the Estonian wrapping things up 6:1 in the 27 minutes. Kanepi raced to 5:0 before having her serve broken, only to return the favor in the next game and take the set.

Set two opened with Sabalenka's turn to break, which she repeated in the fifth game, making it 4:1 in the Belarusian's favor. While Kanepi rescued two set points in the decisive game, Sabalenka took advantage of the third to win the set 6:2.

The third and decisive set saw Kanepi head off another potential service break and then break Sabalenka's serve again in the next game, with things soon at 5:0. After dropping one game, she took the seventh game, and thus set and match.

Kanepi served up five aces and committed three double faults, with a first service success rate of just 48 percent. Her opponents statistics for the same were two, four and 55 percent respectively.

The statistic on converting potential break points was much more strongly in favor of the Estonian, who realized six out of seven compared with two out of seven break point successes for Sabalenka.

Kanepi's next game is with Russian player Darya Kasatkina, ranked 71st in the world, who beat the 14th seed Polona Hercog (Slovenia, ranked 49th in the world and seeded 15th in the tournament).

The Estonian and the Russian have met four times before, with the results even at two wins each, though on hard courts such as those in Melbourne, the Estonia prevailed both times, last time in 2018 in Brisbane. The last encounter between the two saw Kasatkina win 6:4, 6:1 on the clay courts of the French Open in May/June 2018.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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