Giant-killer Kanepi upsets No 2 seed Sabalenka to reach quarters for first time
Sabalenka hit 15 double faults as her hopes of a first slam title were dashed by Estonian Kanepi
Kaia Kanepi achieved more history for Estonia when she upset No 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (10-7) to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open for the first time.
The 36-year-old, who has recorded numerous victories over seeded players in Grand Slam events over the years, snatched victory in the deciding tiebreak as Sabalenka’s second serve fell apart, with 15 double faults telling their own story.
Kanepi’s win put her into a select group of players who have reached the quarter-finals of all four Grand Slam events.
The Estonian served for the match at 5-4 in the final set but couldn’t take it, despite two match points, but finally got over the line in the 10-point tiebreak, though she thought she’d won it when she miscalculated the score at 9-7.
Sabalenka: “I couldn’t find a way back”
Sabalenka’s serve held up well until the beginning of the second set but as the pressure grew, it fell apart.
“Of course I’m really disappointed in the game today,” the Belarussian said. “I had all the opportunities and I didn’t use it. I would say I started well, but then I lose focus and, yeah, then it became really emotional and, yeah, I couldn’t find a way back.”
Kanepi will take on Iga Swiatek for a place in the semi-finals of a slam for the first time after the Pole held off Sorana Cirstea of Romania 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in a gruelling battle that lasted two hours, 27 minutes.
“I just had to overcome some doubts that I had,” No 7 seed Swiatek said. “I did that pretty well, because I don’t have like a good statistic in terms of like coming back after losing first set. So it’s still something I’m working on. These kind of matches are going to give me a lot of confidence for the future, because, you know, coming back from losing in first set and against a player who’s constantly going forward, it’s pretty hard, and I did that.”