The No. 2 ranked women's player in the world is out of the Australian Open in a stunning upset on Day 8 of the first Grand Slam of the year.
Kaia Kanepi, ranked No. 115 in the world, ousted world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (7) to reach her first Australian Open quarterfinal. The 36-year-old Estonian has now reached the quarterfinal of all four Grand Slams with her first coming in 2008.
"At my age I didn't believe I will ever do it," Kanepi said of the feat, per tennis writer Ben Rothenberg. "I'm really happy."
The loss means of the top-10 seeded women's players, only No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, No. 4 Barbora Krejcikova and No. 7 Iga Swiatek remain.
Never count @KanepiKaia out 🙅♀️
At 36 years of age, world No.115 upsets world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka 5-7 6-2 7-6 to reach the #AusOpen quarterfinals for the very first time.#AO2022 pic.twitter.com/358aIfkf1R
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 24, 2022
Sabalenka won the first set in a tight one, but dropped the second. In the third, Kanepi went up 40-0 in the service game, but Sabalenka saved four match points that made it 5-5. She turned it to 6-5 eyeing a better result than the fourth-round finish in last year's Australian Open.
Kanepi held her to love in 71 seconds, forcing a tiebreaker that she won to advance.
Sabalenka was a semifinalist at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, but had struggled with her serve of late. She had at least 10 double faults in each match of the Grand Slam and against Kanepi had 46 unforced errors to Kanepi's 30.
Kanepi will face Iga Swiatek, a 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 winner against Romanian Sorana Cirstea.
Medvedev, Tsitsipas reach quarterfinals
Stefanos Tsitsipas nearly suffered an upset of his own, instead advancing with a 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 match that went the distance. It's his third Australian Open quarterfinal and he's going for his first major title.
The No. 4-seeded player fell behind through three sets when American and No. 20 seed Taylor Fritz, making his first Grand Slam fourth-round appearance, delivered 16 winners and three unforced errors in the third.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 24, 2022
Tsitsipas forced a fifth set and broke the second try to take a 5-3 lead, then rescued two break points to survive and advance. The match lasted into the early morning hours in Melbourne.
"An epic match that’s all I can say," Tsitsipas said, via The Guardian. "I gave everything, I am very proud. I am overwhelmed, too much, the stadium was on fire. It’s too good to be true. I knew it was going to get physical. It was important to have the crowd with me, and I feel like they were backing me up when things got tough. It was important to have that ambiance, thank you. I am very tired, I can barely speak right now."
Tsitsipas finished as a finalist in the 2021 French Open, falling to Novak Djokovic. Djokovic is not in the draw this Grand Slam over visa issues. Tsitsipas will face Frenchman Jannik Sinner, seeded 11th, in the quarterfinal round. Sinner won in straight sets with a first-set tiebreaker.
Russian Daniil Medvedev is the highest-seeded competitor remaining at No. 2. He advanced with a 6-2, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (4), 7-5 battle against unseeded American Maxime Cressy.
“It was not easy,” Medvedev said, via The Guardian. “If I wouldn’t win the fourth one I’d probably be in a difficult mental shape because I had so many break points. Hell of a match. The fourth set was crazy.”
Medvedev, 25, voiced frustration about playing the past two matches on Margaret Court Arena, the newest indoor court, rather than Rod Laver Arena, where the top players' matches are scheduled as the main attraction. Medvedev said there is more space on that court.
He needed nine break points to take control of the fourth set and thereby the match. He is the highest remaining seed and defeated Novak Djokovic in the 2021 U.S. Open, the most recent Grand Slam played. He lost to Djokovic in last year's Australian Open final.
Medvedev will face Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, the ninth seed. Auger-Alissime eliminated No. 27 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia 2-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2, 7-6 (4).
American women take over Australia
With Jessica Pegula and Madison Keys already waiting, Danielle Collins punched her ticket to become the third American woman of eight in the Australian Open quarterfinals. It is the second year in a row three Americans have been in the quarterfinals on the women's side.
Collins, seeded No. 27, came down a set to defeat No. 19 seed Elise Mertens 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. It's the first time the 28-year-old has rallied from a set down in back-to-back matches at a Grand Slam. She has won seven major matches since 2019 doing so, tied for Kaia Kanepi for most of any woman in that span.
She was a semifinalist at the Australian Open in 2019, her best finish at a major.
Alize Cornet reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal after 63 consecutive appearances. The unseeded Frenchwoman upset Romanian and No. 14 seed Simona Halep 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Halep is a two-time Grand Slam champion with wins at the 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon.
Collins and Cornet will face off in the quarterfinal.