NEW YORK (Reuters) - 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 U.S. Open quarter-finals on Monday, the 418th ranked Estonian is now trying to figure out a way to beat Elina Svitolina or 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 had barely played in a main draw event for almost two years until qualifying for the U.S. 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 U.S. Open was her only other tournament this year.
Last year Kanepi’s lone main draw appearance in four WTA level tournaments came in Rabat where she fell in the first round, a marked contrast to when she was once ranked 15th and made five grand slam quarter-finals.
“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 U.S. 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.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury