Australian Open: Kaia Kanepi stuns second seed Aryna Sabalenka to enter quarterfinals

World No. 115 Kanepi became the 15th active player to have reached the last eight of every Grand Slam when she defeated Sabalenka 5-7, 6-2, 7-6(7) to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne.

Kaia Kanepi defeated Aryna Sabalenka 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (7); Credit: Twitter/@WTA

Kaia Kanepi completed her career set of Grand Slam quarter-finals with a stunning come-from-behind win over second seeded Aryna Sabalenka at the Australian Open on Monday. World No. 115 Kanepi became the 15th active player to have reached the last eight of every Grand Slam. She came through a series of wild momentum swings to defeat Sabalenka for the second time in as many meetings. She upset the Belarusian 5-7, 6-2, 7-6(7) to reach the last 8 stage in Melbourne.

Having surrendered the opening set for three matches in a row, Sabalenka took a one-set lead for the first time in Melbourne but was unable to build on it as she struggled with her serve. The Belarusian committed 15 double faults, five more than she had in her third-round win over Marketa Vondrousova.

After losing the first set, Kanepi responded well in the second as she won back-to-back breaks before serving out for a decider in the eighth game. Kanepi then carried the momentum to the third set as she started with a break. But the Belarusian saved four break points to hold for 3-4 and leveled it, before suffering a service meltdown again and hitting three double faults in four points.

The 36-year-old was made to work for her victory as the deciding set went into tiebreak. Kanepi took advantage of a string of unforced errors from Sabalenka to convert her fifth matchpoint and complete the upset.

Kanepi finished with 30 winners balanced by 30 unforced errors, while Sabalenka exceeded her in both categories with 36 winners and 46 unforced errors (including 15 double faults). 

My hand was shaking when I started serving: Kanepi

 “I was really tight,” Kanepi said afterwards, per the WTA website. “My hand was shaking when I started serving. I didn’t make any first serves in, and that added to the pressure.

“First, I tried to hit [the serve] a bit harder with more spin. Then it didn’t go in. Then I started to hit a bit slower. I tried different things to think about than the serve, but I don’t think any of them helped.

“I almost didn’t [regroup]. I guess I was just lucky at the end. So close.”

Kanepi will take on 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek, who beat Sorana Cirstea 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 earlier on Monday, for a place in the semi-finals.

Kanepi on her next opponent: The quarterfinals will pit Kanepi, the oldest player remaining in the draw, against the youngest in Swiatek. The pair have not met before.

“I haven’t watched her, I never played her, and I don’t know how her ball feels, so we’ll see when I play her,” Kanepi said. “What I expect is to play good.”

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