Kaia Kanepi has reached the quarter finals of the Australian Open for the first time in her long career, after defeating Belarusian world number number Aryna Sabalenka in three sets, 5:7, 6:2, 7:6 (10:7), in an encounter which went on almost until midnight at Melbourne Park on Monday.
Kanepi,36, has now completed the set, with quarter final appearances made in all four grand slam tournaments.
"Thank you for your support, it helped a lot. It was a difficult game and I already thought I lost it. I don't know how I won," Kanepi said post-match.
"This was the only grand slam tournament where I hadn't reached the quarter finals and I didn't think I could make it at my age. I'm very happy!"
"I felt like I played well in the first set and throughout the game," Kanepi, ranked 115th in the world, went on.
"There were fluctuations, but that can still happen. In the first set, I had one of the worst services, but I tried to play the same way: You get what you can."
The tie-break situation in fact confused the Estonian momentarily, who celebrated prematurely with the score at 9:7, but after clarifying the rules with the referee went on to get the 10th point.
In the opening set, Kanepi save to break balls and both players held their serves well, with Sabelenka rallying it at the end to save to break points at 5:6 in her favor and taking the set 7:5.
In set two, the Estonian went 4:0 ahead and took the set convincingly, 6:2.
However, the decider was dramatic. Kanepi broke her opponent's serve and was 4:2 up with four break points, but the Belarusian rescued it and took the score to 4:4, with things soon ending up at 5:5 and then heading for a tie break.
The tie break followed much the same pattern as earlier sets, with Kanepi taking an early lead before Sabalenka pulled back to 7:7, only for the Estonian to string three points together.
Kanepi served five aces and committed four double faults while Sabalenka, who has been struggling with her serve in recent months, pulled off four aces but committed 15 double faults.
The success rate for Kanepi's first serve was 49 compared with 64 for Sabalenka, while Kanepi won 73 percent of points on her first serve and 59 percent on her second.
The entire encounter lasted nearly two hours and 20 minutes and ended just before midnight, Melbourne time.
Kanepi faces 20-year-old Iga Świątek (Poland) in the quarter finals. The world number nine overcame Romanian Sorana Cirstea in another lengthy game, lasting two-and-a-half hours.
Świątek is also in the last eight in Australia for the first time in her career. She won the French Open in 2020.
The pair have never played each other competitively before.
Kanepi's previous furthest progress in the Australian Open was the last 16, while she has reached the quarter finals (and no further) of the other three Grand Slam tournaments - the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open - twice apiece, between 2008 and 2017.
Estonia's top-ranked player, Anett Kontaveit, crashed out in round two in Melbourne.
Editor: Andrew Whyte