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Australian Open round one: Kanepi out, Kontaveit through

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Anett Kontaveit.
Anett Kontaveit. Source: SCANPIX/ZUMAPRESS.com

Anett Kontaveit won her round one Australian Open match with Julia Grabher (Austria) 6:2, 6.3, in a match temporarily suspended due to soaring temperatures in Melbourne. Kaia Kanepi, also affected by the heat an a match which lasted two-and-a-half hours, lost her round one encounter with local player Kimberly Birrell after being close to the brink of victory

Kontaveit's game had been suspended earlier on Tuesday due to high temperatures and with the score at 1.1.

Kontaveit is seeded 16th for the tournament, and was meeting Grabher, ranked 85th in the world, for the first time competitively.

The game restarted around 8 a.m. Estonian time, and was wrapped up in a little over an hour as Kontaveit cruised to victory in two sets.

Returning to court, things went to 2:2, after which Kontaveit strung together four game wins in a row, breaking Grabher's serve twice and taking the set.

Kontaveit raced to a 4:0 lead in set two following two breaks, but lost a lengthy game in which she had held, but failed to convert, three game points.

However, another break was enough to take the set 6:3, and Kontaveit was victorious on the second match point played.

The Estonian served up one ace and committed one double fault, compared with two aces and four double faults for the Austrian.

Kontaveit converted four out of six break points presented to her; Grabher, one out of two.

Anett next faces the winner of Mayer Sherif (Egypt) and Madga Linette (Poland), who are due to start their first round match Tuesday morning, Estonian time.

Meanwhile Kimberly Birrell, ranked 167th in the world and given a free pass into the tournament, came back from being a set down and losing a deciding game in set two, to defeat Estonia's Kaia Kanepi in three sets, 3:6, 7:6 (4), 6:1.

Kanepi had reached the quarter finals in Melbourne last year, her furthest progress there in her long career, and she and Birrell had played competitively once before, in 2018, with the Estonian winning in three sets.

Kaia Kanepi. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

In the opening set, Kanepi saved a break point in the first game, then broke Birrell's serve herself in game six, to go 4:2 ahead. While Birrell rescued a set point at 5:2, Kanepi went on to take the set 6.3 off her own serve.

Set two was closer. The Australian went 3:1 up after breaking Kanepi, but the latter pulled things back and went 5:4 up, serving for the match in the next game. However, after going 15:0 ahead, Birrell then broke and strung together four points in a row to take the game. The set headed to a tie-break in which the Estonian started to commit more errors, with Birrell soon 5:2 up. Kanapi again reached a break point at 5:4, but ended up going 7:4 down, and losing the set.

In the decider, with the mercury soaring above 35C, Kanepi, from Haapsalu, failed to come up with anything new as Birrell rallied. The Australian went 4:0 up after two breaks in service games which Kanepi only managed to pick up a point, and took two more games while Kanepi only managed to hold her serve once more, losing the set 6:1.

The entire encounter lasted 2 hours and 32 minutes.

Birrell served up two aces and committed six double faults; the figures for Kanepi were zero and one respectively.

The winner realized five out of six break points presented to her, compared with three out of nine for Kanepi.

Editor's note: This article was updated to incorporate the final Kontaveit-Grabher result.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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