Kasatkina Finding Her Way In St. Petersburg

Daria Kasatkina (photo: @Formula_TX/Twitter)


After Daria Kasatkina secured her second straight win this week at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, in a Russian city that celebrates its opera and theater during normal times, she flashed a big smile toward her box in Sibur Arena and wound up and delivered a right fist pump in an upward motion that was an appropriate coda to her on-court victory over Aliaksandra Sasnovich Thursday afternoon. There was both a sense of relief and delight for the 23-year-old Russian.

In their sixth career head-to-head meeting, the No. 8 seed Kasatkina beat the Belarusian in three dramatic, action-filled sets, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (2), that lasted just a few minutes shy of three hours and advanced Kasatkina into Friday’s quarterfinal round along with six other Russians, the most from one nation in a WTA tournament since 1993. The only non-Russian left in the last eight is 160th-ranked Jaqueline Cristian of Romania, who knocked 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko out of the draw on Wednesday.

“It’s always important and emotional to win the third-set tie breaks,” Kasatkina told Tennis TourTalk during her post-match virtual press conference in both Russian and English. “Of course, it gives me much confidence winning 7-6 in the third. When you are losing 7-6 in the third, you are not feeling very well. Now, I feel good, which is the most important thing now.”

Thursday’s second-round affair between Kasatkina and Sasnovich fit right in with a tournament that has been full of lengthy epic battles. The native of Togliatty, Russia, who has won three titles in her career and earned more than $6.5 million, delivered 25 winners to 22 unforced errors and broke Sasnovich nine times in 24 tries. Meanwhile, Sasnovich countered with 46 winners and committed 31 unforced errors. She broke Kasatkina eight times in 16 attempts. Kasatkina eked out 121 points to Sasnovich’s 108.

The 58th-ranked Kasatkina is no stranger to St. Petersburg audiences, having reached the quarterfinals four times and the semifinals twice. In Sasnovich, she found an eager opponent, who was trying to post back-to-back wins for just the first time this season. However, Kasatkina was ready for the challenge that lay ahead of her. She overcame an 0-2 start to the deciding set and, after Sasnovich served for the match at 6-5, the Russian overcame adversity and reached a third-set tie break, which she dominated 7-2. It leveled Kasatkina’s final-set tie break record at 5-5 and dropped Sasnovich’s to 5-10. It was also the third time this year that Kasatkina had come back to win a match after losing the first set.

During her on-court, post-match interview in Russian that was translated in English, Kasatkina said: “We have played so many times. I don’t think there’s anything she can surprise me with or I can surprise her with. We just played an open fight. I hope the crowd and audience enjoyed it.”

For the second-straight match, Kasatkina played a really confident tie-breaker, just like she did in her first-round win over Danish teenager Clara Tauson. Asked why, she explained that “earlier in the year I lost too many tie-breakers. So, I told myself I need to improve my tie-break record.”

Kasatkina, who sports a respectable 12-4 win-loss record, remains in contention for her second title of the young 2021 season after stringing together six quality wins to win the Phillip Island Trophy event in Melbourne after losing to Aryna Sabalenka in the second round of the Australian Open. She’s won eight of her last 10 matches going back that Sabalenka loss. The only other recent blemish came in the opening round at Dubai, when she dropped a tough three-setter to Alizé Cornet.

By all appearances, Kasatkina has put Dubai behind her and is thriving – or, at least, surviving – in St. Petersburg. She’s also popular and outgoing on her social media platforms, something which Tennis TourTalk asked her about.

“Maybe I have to do it a little bit less being active social media because it takes a lot of focus and emotions,” she said with a hint of laughter in her voice. “It was good during the pandemic and lock down. It was a good thing because I still felt I was still in contact with the fans, like I am on the tour. I’m still there. Now, I’m less active because the tour has returned. I’m doing my most important thing, which is playing tennis. I hope to being more successful on the court than the social media.”


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By the end of her victory against Sasnovich, which moved her into Friday’s quarterfinals against No. 2 seed Veronika Kudermetova, ranked 34th, who fought off the challenge of 152nd-ranked qualifier Kamilla Rakhimova, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (5), in a battle between Russians, Kasatkina had found her way. Indeed, it was a big win for the former World No. 10. She proved once again that a match is never over until the last point.

Around the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy

• Also reaching Friday’s quarterfinals were 122nd-ranked wild card Margarita Gasparyan of Russia, who beat No 68 Katerina Siniakova from the Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-4, and 241st-ranked qualifier Anastasia Gasanova, a 1-6, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (4) winner over No. 43 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, in an all-Russian affair.

• With the upper half of the singles draw featuring four Russians – No. 1 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, wild card Margarita Gasparyan, wild card Vera Zvonareva and qualifier Anastasia Gasanova – it guarantees there will be at least one Russian player in Sunday’s final.