‘Just enjoy yourself’ and wins follow

  • 2012-04-18
  • By Jared Grellet

BACK ON COURT: Splitting with her old coach, Kaia Kanepi is again in solid form.

RIGA - Leading Estonian tennis player Kaia Kanepi has produced her best finish on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) circuit since January, reaching the quarter-finals of the E-BOKS Open in Copenhagen, Denmark, played from April 9 through April 15. Just over a week after parting ways with her coach, Silver Karjus, the 26-year-old Kanepi was looking to move on quickly, winning her first two matches before falling to Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic in the quarter-finals.
Also appearing on the doubles side of the draw for just the second time this season, Kanepi was even more impressive. Teaming up with Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson, the unseeded pairing were eventually halted at the last hurdle, falling to the Japanese pairing of Kimiko Date-Krumm and Rika Fujiwara in a tense finale to the tournament.

Prior to taking to the court for her opening singles encounter, world no. 33 Kanepi was first given an opportunity to get her confidence up by taking to the court to play with Arvidsson in the pair’s first doubles match. Kanepi received just the boost she needed, recording her first win on tour since January as she and Arvidsson eased past Croatian Maria Ambramovic and her Australian partner Daniella Jeflea 6-4, 6-2.

A day later, the right-handed Kanepi come up against another Australian, this time world no. 94 Anastasia Rodionova in the singles draw. Playing with a tournament fifth-seeding, Kanepi faced few problems in pushing aside the Aussie, cruising to a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

In her second round match, the Estonian faced a much tougher workout against Timea Babos of Hungary. The world no. 67 pushed Kanepi to the limit, often matching the renowned hard-hitting Estonian for pace. Eventually, however, Kanepi was able to rely on her experience to get her through to a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (2) victory.

Back on court on Thursday, Kanepi and Arvidsson were able to move on to the semi-finals, surprising doubles specialists Alberta Brianti of Italy and her German partner Kristina Barrois, with a 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory. A day later, Kanepi came up against current world no. 18 Jankovic, against whom she has been unable claim a win since 2010, falling in three sets 6-4, 1-6, 3-6. After the loss, Kanepi was reported as saying on her official Web site, kaiakanepi.com, that “I felt a bit tired today, not as fresh as before. In the first set my first serve worked well, in the second and third set not so much. Jelena played very well, she barely made any mistakes.”

The news was more promising in the doubles semi-finals on Saturday, when Kanepi and Arvidsson extended the winning run to three matches, overcoming a poor second set to defeat Croatia’s Petra Martic and Germany’s Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 6-3, 1-6, 10-7. Kanepi put the second set jitters down to herself and Arvidsson moving away from what had been working so well for them.

“When we had fun on court, it went very well for us,” Kanepi was quoted as saying on her Web site, adding “in the second set we became more serious, but it did not work for us. It does not suit us, when we take the doubles game too seriously, we just need to play and enjoy it.”

The same “have fun” mantra almost worked again in their favor in the final against the more seasoned doubles pairing and tournament third seeds Date-Krumm and Fujiwara. Dropping the first set 2-6, Kanepi and Arvidsson came back to take the second 6-4 to force the match into a tie-break, where their good fortune would finally come to an end as their Japanese opponents held on to win, 10-5.

The finals appearance was the right-handed Kanepi’s best ever showing in a doubles tournament on the WTA circuit. The tournament was a major step in the right direction for Kanepi, who has been far from her best following the biggest result of her career, when she won the Brisbane International in Australia at the start of January. A fortnight later, the Estonian number one suffered her first major setback of the season when she picked up a shoulder injury which attributed to her surprise second round exit at the first Grand Slam event of the year, the Australian Open.

Following nearly two months off to recover from the injury, Kanepi returned to action on the hard courts of the United States. But the former world no. 16 did not have the return she would have envisioned as she was easily accounted for by lesser opponents in both Indian Wells and Miami.

Following the string of poor results, Kanepi then announced on her personal Web site that she was parting ways with her trainer, Karjus, citing a difference in views in regards to where the tennis player’s future is headed. Karjus then shed some more light on the situation, claiming in an interview on Estonian television that the problems arose as a result of the influence that psychologist Mare Pork was having on Kanepi’s career.

Kanepi will now move to clay courts for the first time this season, having entered the Estoril Open in Portugal, beginning April 30.