In an incredible display of power, unseeded Estonian Kaia Kanepi has claimed her second career WTA title by derailing Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova in straight sets in the tournament’s second consecutive unseeded women’s final.
It could’ve been a first-round meeting if the draw had worked differently, but Kanepi looked a convincing champion, displaying her booming serve and powerful backhand down the line to overpower Hantuchova 6-2 6-1 in one hour and 14 minutes without giving away a single break point.
On her way to the final, Kanepi took out seventh seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, second seed Andrea Petkovic, third seed Francesca Schiavone and now Hantuchova all in convincing straight-sets wins to be handed the Evonne Goolagong-Cawley trophy by its namesake—and you could barely wipe the smile off her face.
“It feels fantastic; I’m so happy. I couldn’t stop smiling after the match for a long time,” Kanepi said.
“I think I haven’t really realised what I have done and how I have played and who I have beaten and then what score. I enjoyed a lot the feeling that I have and to win such a big tournament like this.”
In uncanny resemblance to last year’s big-hitting champion Petra Kvitova, who was also ranked world no.34 at the time with one title under her belt, Kanepi hopes to mimic the success of her predecessor this year—Kvitova finished 2011 as world No.2 and Wimbledon champion.
“Well if I’m playing like this I think I can,” she laughed. “I have to win and play consistent. We will see at the end of the year if I did the same thing or no.”
“I think it doesn’t happen too often in some tournaments that I won the matches with the score I did, so it just was my week and I played really well and I hope to continue and improve, but I have to be ready because the history has shown that nothing comes easy for me, so I have to continue working hard.”
Hantuchova barely put a foot wrong tonight, but she said there wasn’t much she could do to stop the Kanepi firepower, rating the Estonian as a top 10 player if she can keep up the outstanding form she displayed this week.
“I felt like I played a great match from the start until the end. [She] didn’t give me too many chances. I tried to find a way, but it just didn’t work today. She was better in all the departments of the game and really deserved to win,” Hantuchova said.
“If she can do this week in week out she’ll be in the top 10 very soon, but it’s a matter of whether she’s going to be able to do that or not. But she’s got a big game, great serve—one of the best on the tour I think at the moment—and also moving very well, so it was a tough match for me.”
With barely a seat spare at Pat Rafter Arena, Hantuchova—who hadn’t won a set since her second-round match after Serena Williams withdrew and Kim Clijsters retired from their semifinal on Friday—looked focused and fresh as she put away a clinical first service game.
Despite a few shaky points from Kanepi, she managed to hold her nerve in her opening service games, but the strong Estonian hit her straps at 2-2, unleashing her third backhand down the line winner to break the Hantuchova serve with a fist pump to her Estonian fans.
Full of confidence, Kanepi started unloading from the baseline with incredible racquet-head speed that saw her again break the Slovakian’s serve with a backhand winner down the line for a 5-2 lead.
After calling her coach to keep her nerves in check, Kanepi served out the 6-2 opening set before kicking off the second by breaking Hantuchova’s serve to love.
Hantuchova had called her coach after the opening set, but she could do little to stop the flow of winners from the Kanepi racquet as she powered to a quick 4-0 lead.
“I mean when she’s on like this it’s really hard to do anything. She’s been playing like this the whole week and when she puts it all together she’s a very dangerous player,” Hantuchova said.
With Hantuchova serving to stay in the match at 5-1, the game seemed to go on forever with entertaining tennis as both players were forced from corner to corner around the court. But, on her fourth championship point, Kanepi finally closed out the match and the championship 6-2 6-1.
Kanepi broke into a smile when reminded she hasn’t faced a break point in her past two matches, saying the hard work has finally paid off for both her and her coach.
“I think a year ago my coach said, well I wasn’t serving that well, and then he said ‘I don’t know what to do but in half a year you must serve like top 10’,” she said.
“So we have been working very hard with the serve and technique and everything and I think the work we’ve done a year ago is paying off right now, it doesn’t pay off right next day, so I think that’s why I’m serving well.”
As the highest ranked Estonian, the pressure of performing has finally lifted for Kanepi, saying they must be satisfied after such an impressive performance this week.
“Previous years I’ve had such a pressure to play well and to reach high in the rankings and so it’s not tough for me also but for my team to feel that kind of pressure at home,” she said.
“I don’t feel any more pressure. I think Estonians have seen that I can play very well and I have beaten high players, so hopefully they are satisfied,” she laughed.