World number 418 Kaia Kanepi’s impressive run at the US Open continued when she stormed into the quarterfinals with an impressive straight-sets victory over Daria Kasatkina. Illnesses and injuries forced the former world number 15 out of action for a couple of years but she made her comeback recently and relied on her Protected Ranking to enter the qualifying tournament.
There, she dropped just one set and entered the main draw for the first time since 2015. Kanepi will now make her second quarter-final appearance at Flushing Meadows, facing Madison Keys.
Kanepi steals first set after a close battle
Kasatkina came into the match as the huge favourite having won their last meeting and being the much higher-ranked player in this encounter. Kanepi made a slow start into the match, committing errors on her groundstrokes as she gifted Kasatkina with the break in the opening game. The Russian consolidated the break without facing many problems, opening up an early 2-0 lead. However, the Estonian stormed back to win 12 of the next 16 points as she started to find the rhythm on her shots, taking a 3-2 lead within a blink of an eye.
After an exchange of service holds, it was Kasatkina who blinked first as Kanepi made the breakthrough having saved three game points, utilizing some of her powerful forehands to get past the stubborn Kasatkina defense and placed herself just a game away from winning the first set.
Serving for the set, Kanepi played her worst game of the set as she threw in four consecutive unforced errors and gifted Kasatkina with the break back. However, some inspired play from the Estonian saw a third consecutive break being played out, breaking straight back to take the first set 6-4 after 38 minutes of play.
Kasatkina recovers from huge deficit but a slip-up gifts Kanepi the win
Carrying over the momentum from the first set into the second, Kanepi looked to be very comfortable after claiming the opening game. Kasatkina then secured a must-hold service game to keep her in the match, but she was still generally outplayed thus far.
The third game was pivotal in deciding the match outcome with the Russian wasting a total of four break points and Kanepi narrowly getting the important service hold which would prove crucial later. Kasatkina would rue her missed chances as she lost eight of the next nine points only to see the Estonian open up a 6-4 4-1 lead, with the victory already within her reach.
Unexpectedly, the youngster came out of nowhere to return on serve after prevailing in a tight 13-minute game, converting on her third break point and saved a total of eight game points. Exchanging breaks of serve, it was Kasatkina who had to serve to stay in the match. However, her serve once again abandoned her when it mattered as she lost a 30-0 lead only to see Kanepi clinch the hard-fought win in straight sets after an hour and 27 minutes of play.