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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, May 22, 2022

 
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Kaia Kanepi, the oldest woman in the Roland Garros singles field, toppled 10th-seeded Garbiñe Muguruza 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in an opening-round upset.

Photo credit: Getty

Tugging on her charcoal-colored visor, Garbiñe Muguruza tried focus on the challenge across the net.

Kaia Kanepi had all the answers at closing time.

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The Roland Garros first round was the final stop for Muguruza for the second straight year.

Kanepi cracked 34 winners and burst through the final three games toppling the 10th-seeded Muguruza 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the Roland Garros second round for the ninth time.




The 36-year-old Kanepi took the court as the oldest woman in the singles draw and solidified her status as a seed slayer.

It was Kanepi's 19th victory over a seeded player in the opening three rounds of a Grand Slam.

So what's the key to Kanepi's giant-killing spree in Slams? Keep calm and enjoy the experience.

"I do get nervous, it's not easy to play a tough opponent in the first round, but I think I enjoy playing Grand Slams more and I think the motivation is higher than smaller tournaments," Kanepi told the media in Paris. "I try to be more focused and not too emotional when I play in Slams."

Two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza was in control up a set and a break at 3-1 in the second set. But Muguruza, whose flat strikes offer little margin for error when tension strikes, lost a bit of conviction in her strikes and Kanepi turned the match around. 

"I think I started very well, although the first couple of games I was start nervous, but I managed to turn them around and get the first set and be dominating," Muguruza told the media in Paris. "Then obviously in the second set it was a moment where I hesitated maybe to close the match, well close the match, get more dominant, and she came out with great tennis and managed to put me in a third set.

"Then in the third set I think it was a very good set, you would have, it could have go both ways, I have a feeling."

Fourteen years after reaching her first major quarterfinal in Paris, Kanepi controlled the center of the court at crunch time upsetting the 2016 champion in two hours, six minutes.

Tennis Express

The 10th-ranked Spaniard, who lost to 81st-ranked Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk in her 2021 opener, fell to 7-9 on the season.

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In the opening hours of play, two Top 10 seeds have already tumbled out of the women's draw.

Kanepi's upset of Muguruza comes a couple of hours after 30-year-old Polish veteran Magda Linette surprised sixth-seeded Ons Jabeur 3-6, 7-6(4),7-5. Madrid champion Jabeur was coming off a run to the Rome final and carried a WTA-best 17-3 clay-court record in 2022 into Paris.

Kanepi converted 3 of 13 break points, pumped seven aces and won all nine trips to net. 

Last fall, Muguruza played dynamic tennis knocking off four Top 10 opponents to capture her 10th career championship at the WTA Finals Guadalajara.

The Spaniard seemed poised to carry that form into 2022.

However, it's been a disappointing season for Muguruza, who lost to 61st-ranked Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in the Australian Open second round. Muguruza has managed back-to-back wins in just one of nine tournaments this year when she beat Sorana Cirstea and Madison Brengle in succession to reach her lone quarterfinal at Doha in February.

"It's been a tough season though," Muguruza said. "I mean, I've had matches so much in control, but then it's, I don't manage to close and it gets complicated and then a match is a match and at the end there's only a winner. But I feel that I'm training hard, I'm putting the work, I'm playing tournaments, trying to switch those moments, try to get more confident.

"So we're going to keep doing it. I mean at some point I'm a hundred percent sure that I'm going to go out there and get those wins that are slipping away right now from me."

 

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