Kaia Kanepi has a history of freezing from anxiety, but she outdid herself today when she allowed 15th seed Yanina Wickmayer to roll over her 6-0 in the first set of their U.S. Open round of 16 match. Kanepi looked as though she had glue on the bottom of her shoes, and to make the contrast more dramatic, Wickmayer was jumping up and down between points and looking like she was powered by the Energizer bunny.
I was hoping that Kanepi had overcome the problem with her nerves, but apparently, she hasn't. But, to her credit, as the second set began, the Tall One from Tallinn slowly came to life, though she went down a break in the second set. She had a set point at 5-4, which Wickmayer saved. The set went to a tiebreak, which Kanepi won decisively, at 7-2. After that, the Estonian rolled, as Wickmayer made more and more errors, and Kanepi found her big serve. Kanepi went up 5-0, in fact, then Wickmayer finally won a game. But that was the only game she was to win in that set.
Wickmayer was a semifinalist in last year's Open, and for a while, she looked on track to meet either Andrea Petkovic or Vera Zvonareva in the quarterfinals. But now it will be the 31st seed who goes for a semifinal slot in Flushing Meadows. The turnaround on both sides in this match was dramatic.
There wasn't a turnaround--not a significant one, anyway, in the final daytime match. Maria Sharapova waited too long to adjust her game against top seed Caroline Wozniacki, and even when she did, the 2006 champion once again could not find her serve.
There were moments of hope for Sharapova fans, however. Down 2-4, 0-40 in the first set, Sharapova held, then broke Wozniacki. But the Russian was unable to hold her serve in the next game. She did save a couple of set points when Wozniacki served for the set at 5-3, but Wozniacki prevailed with a 6-3 first set win.
In the second set--when the 14th seed began to volley and to hit more angled shots--she had a break point when Wozniacki served at 1-2, but that was erased. She would go on to save a match point on her own serve, but the 1st seed had no trouble serving for a 6-3, 6-4 victory.
Sharapova hit 32 winners, but she also made 36 unforced errors, and she double-faulted nine times. Wozniacki hit 16 winners and made only 10 unforced errors. She looked as solid as she could be, and I can only imagine what a straight-set win over Sharapova does for her confidence. Wozniacki is about as tough as they come. Sharapova, also known for her toughness, obviously isn't "back" yet.
I enjoyed the Sharapova-Wozniacki match, but it started while the Kanepi-Wickmayer match was still in progress, and I had trouble taking my eyes off of the strange goings-on in Louis Armstrong Stadium. Sometimes--at least for me--the more unusual matches are the compelling ones. So far, my favorite two have been the Stosur-Dementieva match and the Schnyder-Wickmayer match. I also enjoyed watching Venus Williams play Shahar Peer, and all of Francesca Schiavone's matches, just because she played in them.