Australian Open: 'I don't know how I managed to do it' – Kanepi holds her nerve to stun Sabalenka

By Sports Desk January 24, 2022

Kaia Kanepi surprised even herself by holding her nerve to eliminate second seed Aryna Sabalenka in a final-set tie-break and reach Australian Open quarter-finals for the first time.

The world number 115 edged a topsy-turvy battle 5-7 6-2 7-6 (10-7) on Margaret Court Arena to set up a meeting with Iga Swiatek in the final eight.

With Monday's impressive comeback win, Kanepi has now completed a clean sweep of reaching the quarter-finals of all four majors, making her the 15th active player to do so.

But after squandering four match points in the 10th game of the deciding set, Kanepi admits she struggled to keep her nerves in check when the match went the distance.

"I thought I was going to lose it after the match points I had on my serve," said the 36-year-old, who finished with 30 winners and 30 unforced errors.

"It was really difficult to come back. I don't know how I managed to do it.

"I was really tight. My hand was shaking when I started serving. I didn't make any first serves in, and that added to the pressure.
 
"It was quite crazy. I think I would be more happy if I won after two, three match points. It was really close that I lost the match. I feel a bit exhausted right now.

"The Australian Open was the only quarter-final grand slam I was missing. Given my age, I didn't actually believe I was going to do it. I'm really happy."

After sealing a 14th career victory over a top-10 opponent, with her second win in a row against Sabalenka, Kanepi is now relishing Wednesday's battle with Swiatek.

That will pit the youngest and oldest remaining players left in the draw against each other, with 20-year-old Swiatek having earlier defeated Sorana Cirstea in three sets.

"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 of her next opponent. "What I expect is to play good."

Kanepi is one of six Australian Open quarter-final debutants remaining, with top seed Ash Barty and Madison Keys the only two to have previously reached this stage.

Related items

  • French Open: Kerber wins seven in a row on clay for the first time French Open: Kerber wins seven in a row on clay for the first time

    Angelique Kerber clinched a career first at the French Open on Wednesday, winning her seventh match in a row on European clay.

    Kerber, who has won three grand slam titles, headed to Roland Garros in form on the back of a victory at the Internationaux de Strasbourg.

    The 34-year-old, whose last major title came at Wimbledon in 2018, is in the hunt for her first French Open title, which would complete the career Grand Slam.

    While that may seem unlikely for the world number 17, she took a step closer on Wednesday by defeating Elsa Jacquemot 6-1 7-6 (7-2).

    That sent Kerber into the third round at Roland Garros for the first time since 2018 and also saw her win seven successive matches on clay courts in Europe for the first time in her long career.

    "When you've achieved everything, you just play for the love for the game," Kerber explained after her win.

    "I love to play tennis, love to play here in front of you guys, love to play for the atmosphere and working really hard to play here, have the energy from the fans.

    "I still love it, let's see how long I can stay here and play good at a high level."

  • French Open: Beaten Raducanu still learning but ready for 'more familiar' second year French Open: Beaten Raducanu still learning but ready for 'more familiar' second year

    Emma Raducanu has completed her "pretty positive" first year on the WTA Tour after exiting the French Open in defeat to Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Wednesday.

    Raducanu made her WTA Tour main-draw debut last June as a wildcard at the Nottingham Open, which directly follows Roland Garros.

    The Briton's stunning ascent could scarcely have been imagined at that stage, as she went on to enjoy remarkable, record-breaking success in winning the US Open later in 2021.

    Subsequent progress has not been quite so smooth, and Raducanu's latest grand slam campaign ended in the second round against Sasnovich in Paris.

    The 19-year-old appeared to be in command after taking the opener but collapsed to lose 3-6 6-1 6-1.

    Yet speaking after the match, Raducanu reminded reporters her senior career is merely 12 months old, meaning she is still happy to focus on the positives rather than rue another upset defeat – the world number 12 ousted by an unseeded opponent.

    "We were saying with my team this morning: it's pretty much a year anniversary since my comeback to competitive tennis," she said. "I was playing a Brit tour in Connaught [in May 2021].

    "I think I have come a long way since then. I think I do really welcome going around the second time. I think this year was always going to be challenging for me to adjust, find my feet.

    "There's always something new. Like I'm always asking where everything is. I have no idea where everything is. It's going to be a lot more familiar this time around.

    "I feel like in the last 12 months, I have definitely grown a lot. On and off the court, I feel like I have probably improved, like how much I fight.

    "I think that's one of my biggest strengths and even more so on the tour this year, and it's definitely opened my eyes to just how good everyone is and how much depth there is in the game.

    "But I think that it has been a pretty positive year just because I have learnt so much, and I think that the amount of learning that I have kind of done outweighs any sort of result, to be honest."

    That "learning" was the theme of Raducanu's post-tournament assessment, explaining she is now "taking it better" when she is beaten and will "just look at everything as a lesson".

    She said: "I know exactly where I went wrong, where I can improve, where other people are better than me.

    "To be honest, I am learning every single day, every single match, every practice.

    "I would say that I'm at this level, but there are definitely aspects of my game that need to improve and catch up to where my current ranking is."

  • 'Wimbledon will never be an exhibition' – Murray 'Wimbledon will never be an exhibition' – Murray

    Andy Murray has hit out at the suggestion that Wimbledon will not feel as important without ranking points.

    The All England Club's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing at the grand slam has resulted in the WTA and ATP stripping Wimbledon of any ranking points, which has led to the suggestion some players may skip the tournament.

    Naomi Osaka, the former WTA world number one and a three-time grand slam champion, suggested after her first-round exit at Roland Garros that she was considering missing Wimbledon as she feels the tournament may feel "like an exhibition".

    Other high-profile players, such as Denis Shapovalov, are also considering whether they take part, though Russian Andrey Rublev, who is one of the players who has been banned due to his nation's invasion of Ukraine, believes the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, who have no concern over ranking points but are instead going for history, will feature.

    Former world number one Murray, who won Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016, has insisted that the grand slam will forever be a crucial part of the tennis calendar, however, comparing it to the FIFA World Cup and one of golf's majors – The Masters.

    Murray tweeted: "I follow golf very closely and have no idea how many ranking points the winner of The Masters gets.

    "Me and my friends love football and none of us know or care how many ranking points a team gets for winning the FIFA World Cup.

    "But I could tell you exactly who won the World Cup and the Masters. I'd hazard a guess that most people watching on centre court at Wimbledon in a few weeks' time wouldn't know or care about how many ranking points a player gets for winning a third-round match.

    "But I guarantee they will remember who wins. Wimbledon will never be an exhibition and will never feel like an exhibition. The end."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.