Kasatkina: On Getting Back To A Happier Place

Daria Kasatkina

PARIS/WASHINGTON, June 3, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Three years have passed since Daria Kasatkina made a quarterfinal run at Roland Garros in 2018. On Wednesday, the 24-year-old native of Tolyatti, Russia, showed signs of her brilliant past when she dealt No. 10 seed and close friend Belinda Bencic a 6-2, 6-2 defeat. It advanced her to the third round where she will oppose No. 54 Sorana Cirstea of Romania.

Against Bencic, the 37th-ranked Kasatkina hit eight aces and 19 winners and faced no break points during her second-round victory over Bencic, whom she outpointed 65-48. The two shared a warm embrace at the net following match point.

“I played a really good match today,” Kasatkina said during her virtual press conference. “It’s always difficult to describe why you play good today and the next day not so good.”

Kasatkina was asked by a reporter how she felt she had changed as a player and a person since her 2018 run. “A lot has changed,” she said. “That was one amazing year for me, which was important in a good and in a bad way.”

Early in 2018, Kasatkina reached back-to-back finals in Dubai and Indian Wells on hard courts, losing to Elina Svitolina and Naomi Osaka, then had quarterfinal runs on clay in Charleston and Madrid before her Roland Garros run to the final eight. Later in the year, she won the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Kasatkina finished the season 42-24 with a year-end Top 10 ranking after starting the season ranked 24th.

“I learned a lot and I think I became a little bit different, maybe more experienced, a bit more serious. Let’s say I understand more why I’m winning or why I’m losing.

“At that time, everything was just going with the wave, and I was not thinking that much. Now, I’m more analyzing what’s going on in the situation I’m in.

“Yeah, getting maybe a bit more mature.”

The following season, Kasatkina’s win-loss record dipped to 12-21 and her ranking plummeted to No. 70. Last season, she improved to 18-14 and a year-end No. 72. This year, she’s off to a 20-8 start – which includes winning two of her four career titles, in Melbourne at the Philipp Island Trophy and in St. Petersburg, Russia – and ranked 37th.

In press, Kasatkina was asked about reports that she had thought about retiring from tennis in 2019. She responded: “If you’re not happy on the court, you are not going to be happy in your life, especially if you’re ambitious. I mean, if you have big goals. That’s what was going on with me. I was not happy being on the court. That automatically transferred to life, to my mind.

“I started to think like maybe I have to do something else to be happy, but that was just a bad moment, which was quite long, I think.

“I just had to go through the situation and I’m happy that I did. I don’t know if it’s right to say, experience, but this background, and I started to understand myself better, which was also very important.”

When Kasatkina was asked what kept her going and got her back to a happier place, she said: “The people around, for sure. People around, which helped me a lot who were next to me and trying to help, giving me good vibes all the time and a psychologist as well. I was working with a sports psychologist, which was also a good deal.

“Professional sport is tough and is getting more and more competitive It’s difficult especially when you are quite young and you get some success at the beginning of your career and you want more and more and more. But in one point, you start, maybe, losing a little bit and you think that everything is falling apart.

“You have to have the right people around you who can explain to you that it’s absolutely normal and you have to just keep going. Doesn’t matter what. And work on yourself, work on your mind, and don’t let the bad thoughts come into your head.”

When Kasatkina was asked near the end of her virtual press conference what it would mean to surpass her 2018 quarterfinal run and go deeper, she responded: “Well, the thing that I already went far, one or two Grand Slams for sure would help me, because it’s experience and it’s always new to face these kinds of matches like the quarterfinals and further.

“So, in case that I go that far, which will be amazing always, I think for sure this experience would help me. But as I say, I have a third-round match [Friday], and that’s my main goal for the moment.”

Daniil Medvedev: On the night session

Mektic and Pavic: Out of men’s doubles

Serena Williams: ‘Venus said it best’

Following her 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 second-round victory over No. 174 Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania, 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, herself no stranger to press conferences, was asked by a reporter to comment about the role post-match press conferences play in tennis.

“Do you think they’re the best way we can get insight or should we be exploring new ways instead?” Serena was asked.

Her response?

“I think press conferences definitely play their part. I think they’re very difficult to do at times. I’ve had my run-in with journalists, so …

“Venus said it best (smiling).”

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova: ‘My little sketches’

Although Anna Karolina Schmiedlova‘s taste of the Roland Garros main draw was brief – she lost in the first round to Kristina Mladenovic of France after winning three rounds of qualifying last week – her memories are long lasting.


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A post shared by Anna Karolina (@akschmiedlova)

On Wednesday, the 121st-ranked Schmiedlova of Slovakia shared her latest sketches on her Instagram page, “My little sketches,” she described her drawings of Roland Garros, which depict blend architecture and nature and fans. “Always my favourite tournament,” she writes.


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A post shared by Anna Karolina (@akschmiedlova)

In an interview last year in Istanbul, she told the WTA website that her love of art helps to take her mind off of tennis during tournaments.

Steve Johnson: A victory that was pure heart

Badosa remains en fuego on terre battue

Americans in Paris

What they’re saying

Mihaela Buzarnescu on what it was like to play Serena Williams for the first time: “Yeah, it was really, for me, it was like a dream for a long time to play against her, because since I was young I was following her and her sister. Was always like, let’s say, like a goal to play against such a legend.”

Madison Keys, who defeated Leylah Fernandez, 6-1, 7-5, to advance to the third round against Victoria Azarenka: “I’m definitely happier when it’s beautiful and sunshine in Paris.”

What they’re writing

• One of the best takes on l’affaire Naomi Osaka has been written by Louisa Thomas of The New Yorker, in “Naomi Osaka Takes A Difficult Stand.” Worth a good moment of your time.

• Former NBA player Etan Thomas, who played alongside Michael Jordan, has seen the pressure on athletes like Naomi Osaka. As he wrote in an opinion essay for The Guardian of London, “a sporting career at the highest level can bring wealth, fame and adoration. It does not cushion you against the pain of being human.”

What they’re photographing

What they’re sharing on social media

Coco Gauff / It was an honor to play with you …

Carla Suárez Navarro / From the heart