While the previous SF between Wozniacki and Makarova featured a mix of baseline rallies and net play, the second SF between no. 16-ranked Kaia Kanepi and no. 28-ranked Varvara Lepchenko was more a test of baseline power. Lepchenko was one of two left-handed players to feature in the SF at the 2012 Korea Open (Makarova was the other player). While Makarova plays with more craft and touch, Lepchenko has more of a “basher’s style” that can wear down even a hard-hitting player like the third-seeded Kanepi.
While Kanepi took the early lead in the first set, to go up 4-1*, she was broken while serving at 4*-2. She was hitting more errors and double-faults, while credit also goes to Lepchenko for applying the pressure on her higher-ranked opponent.
Despite a noticeable dip in form from Kanepi late in the first set, Lepchenko’s nerves seemed to betray her as she served to stay in the set at 4*-5. She double-faulted to 15-30. Kanepi then stepped up her aggression level, to craft a nice point to earn two SPs on Lepchenko’s serve. Kanepi broke to take the first set, 6-4.
To the spectator’s eye, Kanepi easily seemed to be the more experienced player in this match-up. However, she was playing very inconsistently and Lepchenko’s confidence seemed to rise in direct proportion to Kanepi’s error count. While Lepchenko’s style of tennis is not as easy on the eye as Kanepi’s is, her hard work pays off and it’s tough not to admire her perseverance. It’s this very quality that started to win her the crowd’s support, as the match wore on.
Lepchenko found her game, as Kanepi started to lose her way, in the second set. Kanepi double-faulted on key service points, and she double-faulted to give Lepchenko BP at 1*-2. She managed to save that with a strong second serve, which she followed up with an impressive BH to get advantage, and then hold.
However, Kanepi’s flimsy hold soon led to an unsteady stream of errors. Lepchenko started to establish herself as the better of the two, as she raced out to a double break to serve for the set at 5*-2. With a strong serve, she took the second set, 6-2.
Though Lepchenko had the momentum at the start of the 3rd set, she seemed to lose focus. She thew her racquet on the court in disgust, after an error. Still, she maintained her grasp on the match, holding to love to go 4-4 in the decider. However, that hold proved to be her last stand. After Kanepi held to go 5-4, Lapchenko was broken as she served to stay in the match. Kanepi thus advanced to the Korea Open final, having defeated Lepchenko 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
Kanepi is having a great year. She won two of her three career titles in 2012 and reached a career-high ranking of no. in 15 in August 2012. She faces top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the 2012 Korea Open final. Wozniacki leads 3-2 in the H2H, although Kanepi won their last match-up at Roland Garros this year. Although Wozniacki would appear to be the favorite, based on her performance at the SFs, Kanepi has a day to recover her form before the Sunday final.