Kanepi still figuring things out back at US Open
A year ago Kaia Kanepi was reading books, walking her dog and trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life.
After a tidy 6-4, 6-4 win over Russian Daria Kasatkina put her into the US Open quarterfinals on Monday, the 418th ranked Estonian is now trying to figure out a way to beat Madison Keys.
"I didn't expect that," said the 32-year-old Kanepi, who seemed genuinely stunned by her success. "I hoped to qualify and keep going, see what happens with my tennis.
"It's pretty amazing where I am now compared to where I was a few months ago."
Kanepi had been battling with painful plantar fasciitis in both feet and a bout with the debilitating Epstein-Barr virus and was contemplating giving up tennis altogether.
She had barely played in a main draw event for almost two years until qualifying for the US Open.
Despite her battles with Epstein-Barr, she has displayed remarkable endurance slogging through seven matches in 14 days, needing three wins in qualifying just to get into the main draw.
Aside from a challenger in Germany and failed bids to qualify for Wimbledon and a WTA Tour event in Romania, the US Open was her only other tournament this year.
Last year Kanepi's lone main draw appearance in four WTA-level tournaments came in Rabat, Morocco, where she fell in the first round, a marked contrast to when she was once ranked 15th and made five Grand Slam quarterfinals.
"I started doing fitness in December with a discus thrower then I did it for a few months already and my feet got better," said Kanepi. "I didn't feel pain anymore.
"Then I thought I have already done some training. Then why not try to come back.
"I missed adrenaline when I am at the tournaments. I missed winning. And I missed that feeling when you play well."
Kanepi added she feeds off the energy of New York and even made a brief stop coming home from a recent holiday, just to experience it again.
"I have always loved being in New York. Even after I went to Hawaii, I came two days to New York just to stay in the city, because I didn't play the US Open last year," she said.
"I wanted to be in the city.
"I like the atmosphere. I like being here. I love the courts and the climate, and I think that the courts suit my game really well."