It was looking as though she had jinxed herself when she failed to win a game in her first set against Yanina Wickmayer on Monday in the fourth round of the U.S. Open.
"I thought, 'Wow, I need to take a game,'" Kanepi said.
Taking the match wasn't part of the thought process. She did win a game, then another, then another — and all of a sudden, Kanepi had a three-set victory and a spot in the quarterfinals.
The 31st-seeded Kanepi beat Wickmayer, a 2009 U.S. Open semifinalist, 0-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1.
"She played really good tennis first set," Wickmayer insisted. "I won the set pretty easily on the score, but all the games were pretty tough and I had to fight for every point. I knew second set was going to be a tougher one. Had my chances in the second set and didn't take them."
The 15th-seeded Wickmayer was up a break in the second set but couldn't close out the match. Kanepi broke back, then found herself facing two more break points at 4-4.
"I had nothing to lose, so I just went for a powerful serve," Kanepi said.
The player who had all of three aces in her first three matches served aces on the next two points. After four deuces, and saving two more break points, she won the game.
Upon winning the second-set tiebreaker, Kanepi dominated the final set.
"I think I was like in the zone or something," she said. "I was just fighting every point. I tried to relax, also not think about the win."
Kanepi hadn't made it past the third round at the U.S. Open before this year. It's the best showing not just for herself but for her country: No Estonian had ever advanced this far in the Open era.
Now Kanepi is seeking her best performance at any Grand Slam, after she lost in the quarterfinals at the 2008 French Open and at Wimbledon this year. Kanepi, who upset fourth-seeded Jelena Jankovic in the third round, next faces seventh-seeded Vera Zvonareva.
Wickmayer had only five unforced errors in the first set; she had a total of 37 in the last two. The 20-year-old Belgian hasn't been past the fourth round at a Grand Slam since her semifinal appearance at last year's Open.
"She was hitting very hard and near the lines," Kanepi said of Wickmayer's first-set play. "So everything just worked for her. I didn't think I hit so bad. Just a little bit tight, a little slow, and she played very well."