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Kaia Kanepi rediscovers spark to oust Angelique Kerber

Kaia Kanepi celebrates.
by Ronald Atkin
Friday 28 June 2013
Having stood two tie-break points away from a place in the third round of the ladies’ singles, the No.7 seed Angelique Kerber was bundled off the victory path by the Estonian six-footer Kaia Kanepi 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-3 in a big-hitting thriller on No.2 Court.
 
Kerber, no mean smiter of the ball herself, cut a woebegone figure in the deciding set as Kanepi showed herself the Special K on the day with the sheer power of her comeback.
 
The 25-year-old Kerber, Germany’s number one, had marched into the semi-finals at the 2012 Championships but had lost her one previous meeting with Kanepi at Sydney four years ago and was aware her 28-year-old opponent was more of a threat than her present ranking of 46 indicated.
 
Having been as high as 15 ten months ago, Kanepi’s ranking tumbled because of persistent Achilles tendon troubles and her pedigree is revealed by her record of a quarter-final place at all four Grand Slams over the years.
 
Kanepi certainly could not have made a more positive start when this match, postponed from Thursday evening, finally got under way two hours late because of rain.
 
She swept into a 3-0 lead only to be on the end of a rousing Kerber recovery, which saw the German win six games in succession to take the set after just 27 minutes.
 
Considering the state of the court, which had suffered slight drizzle when uncovered before the start, the hitting was of the highest order and the running was brave. Kanepi took one heavy tumble, late in the second set but was not hurt.
 
Kerber continued to stamp her authority on the second set, capturing her first four service games at a cost of just two points, but the difference now was that Kanepi’s ball striking was on the mend and she was holding serve, albeit only after deuce games on a couple of occasions.
 
Kerber missed two break points which would have given her a 4-2 lead, then in the ninth game it was Kanepi’s turn to squander two break points, which would have left her serving for the set, but Kerber got out of trouble with an ace and when she surged into a 5-1 lead in the subsequent tie-break she seemed home and dry, only to fall 5-6 behind and see the match squared by Kanepi’s thunderous service winner.
 
Kerber promptly took a toilet break in an effort to regroup but the impetus and authority had seeped  out of her game and she buried her face in a towel at the changeover after falling 3-0 behind. When she double-faulted twice to go 5-1 down the contest seemed decided, but it was then Kanepi’s turn to suffer a late wobble.
 
Twice she perpetrated double-faults on match point, and if in the end she crept, rather than strode, across the finish line there was no doubting that she had deserved it.
 
As Kerber admitted later, she had her chances of a two-set win. “But I didn’t take them. Maybe I could have been a bit more aggressive on one or two balls but she played good on the important points. Then in the third set she was playing unbelievable and I couldn’t do nothing.”
 
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