The Australian Open champion Kenin fails within the second spherical of Reuters

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© Reuters. Australian Open

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By Nick Mulvenney

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Reigning champion Sofia Kenin crashed in the second round at the Australian Open on Thursday and lost 6-3: 6-2 in the Margaret Court Arena against Kaia Kanepi, the number 65 in the world.

The 22-year-old, who followed her Grand Slam breakthrough in Melbourne Park last year with a run to the final at the French Open, sprayed 22 unforced mistakes in the 64-minute competition against the experienced Estonian.

Kenin had been moved to tears in court several times since she emerged from quarantine in Melbourne and admitted that she was struggling to contain her nerves at the prospect of defending the title.

Kanepi, who reached the final of the Gippsland Trophy warm-up tournament last week, was just the kind of die-hard veteran who would try to exploit her opponent’s mental weaknesses.

The Estonian played a solid, albeit unspectacular, game, breaking Kenin 3-1 in the opening set and never looking back after warding off three breakpoints in the next game.

“I served very well today, I think that helped a lot,” said the 35-year-old.

“My game plan was to play aggressively, as I usually do.”

Kenin slammed her racket into the ground in frustration after losing the first set but never looked like the player who defeated Garbine Muguruza in last year’s final.

Kanepi kept the pressure on in the second set, in which Kenin didn’t manage to break a single point, and the Estonians firmly sealed their win with their 10th ace.

Kenin was watched by her coaching father Alex and waved briefly to the sparse crowd as she walked off the field with her head bowed and defending her title.

Next up for Kanepi is a third-round draw against Croatian Donna Vekic, who beat Argentinian Nadia Podoroska in her second-round game on Thursday.

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