The Belarusian looked shaky during the second set but was able to right the ship and score a 6-3 4-6 6-3 win over the Estonian veteran, relying on her championship grit and attitude to advance to the second round.
Azarenka looked comfortable in the first set, winning 90% if points behind her first serve. Although both ladies exchanged breaks, it was the 2020 Cincinnati champion who maintained her rhythm as she went on to break Kanepi a second time before closing out the set.
However, Azarenka was hindered by a poor service performance in the second set. The 33-year old hit five double faults, gifting her opponent the crucial break as she was unable to produce much behind a weak second serve. This led to Kanepi leveling the match at a set a-piece, with the all-important final set looming.
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With both ladies serving poorly in the final set, momentum swung between each competitor. Azarenka committed another three double faults which saw Kanepi take the lead, but unfortunately the World No.31 served even worse than her Belarusian opponent. After establishing a 2-0 lead, Kanepi was unable to take advantage of the situation, leading to an Azarenka break back. The Belarusian was then able to close out the match, moving to the second round after two hours and 13 minutes.