After a rocky first day at the 2015 US Open, just three seeds remain in the second quarter of the women’s draw. One of those seeds is Elina Svitolina, who is currently topping the poll in who readers of Moo’s Tennis Blog think will come through this depleted quarter. Svitolina faces a deceptively tricky second round match against Kaia Kanepi. The Estonian player, currently ranked at 89 in the world, has had a disappointing year that has once again been plagued by injuries.
Kanepi started the year with a quarter-final run in Brisbane, beating Andrea Petkovic in her first match of 2015. Since Australia, she has only once scored multiple wins at a tournament, pushing Caroline Wozniacki to three sets in Miami but eventually falling in the third round. Kanepi has exceptionally clean groundstrokes but has always been haunted by nerves. Despite this, she has achieved some excellent results in her career highlighting the quality of her game. Kanepi has reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam on five separate occasions including at the US Open in 2010. She also reached the second week in New York last year with victories over Sam Stosur and Carla Suárez Navarro before falling to the world number one, Serena Williams in the fourth round.
Since Wimbledon, Kanepi has played just one tournament in New Haven where she secured a victory over Samantha Crawford in qualifying before falling in three sets to Magdalena Rybarikova. In the first round the US Open, Kanepi had what she described on her Facebook page as “the best match of this year” with a 6-1 6-1 win over Anna-Lena Friedsam. It is worth noting this was the German player’s first match since spraining her ankle in Bad Gastein.
Svitolina also enjoyed a straightforward opener that looked more impressive with all the seeds dropping like flies. The Ukranian player defeated the qualifier, Elizaveta Kulichkova, 6-1 6-4. Svitolina does struggle against aggressive players when they are not missing but she has improved this year in winning matches that you would expect her to win. There’s still room for improvement in terms of developing a more proactive gameplan but I think that will come with time.
Svitolina and Kanepi will be playing each other for the first time. This is one of the more intriguing matches on the schedule for Wednesday; Kanepi comes good every now and then, a little bit like Kvitova (but not quite in the same vein!) in her ability to suddenly string some good performances together out of nowhere. Kanepi though is an unknown quantity right now in terms of where her health and fitness are at. Svitolina’s the safe pick to win this match as she has the game to frustrate Kanepi into making errors. However, if Kanepi can draw on the confidence from her first round win then this could be a much tougher match for Svitolina than expected. I’m going to take a rare risk with this one and go for Kaia to pull out a surprise win.
Prediction: Kanepi d. Svitolina in 3 sets