Shortly, the 2019 Australian Open is upon every player and tennis community but for Daria Kasatkina from Russia, she experienced her ‘just desserts’ and intends on receiving more starting at Melbourne.
“I remember 10 years ago when I was a kid I came here and was dreaming that (some day) I would stand on this central court holding the trophy…and now here I am. The dream came true”, Kasatkina said smilingly after a hard fought performance this past October upon winning the 2018 Kremlin Cup. It is her home turf and playing opposite Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur was difficult. The Russian looked at the score and cringed seeing she had lost the opening set 2-6. But it was in between breaks she had discussions with her coach who had months later called her ‘a Russian wall’ and she tried taking his advice on tactics to get wins.
The pep talk worked well with Kasatkina’s win 2-6, 7-6, 6-4, but not without the unintentional help from Jabeur who started cramping towards the end of the match. “I wanted to win today but it’s not meant to be,” Jabeur sadly said. She knew that Kasatkina was more knowledgeable on how to play and when she got into her gear, there was no going back. Jabeur added “Maybe it’s a little bit lack of experience, but this is my first final so hopefully I can have many more.”
Kasatkina’s victory after the Kremlin Cup elevated her ranking from no. 14 now to a top 10 WTA player who also appreciated her maiden title in 2017 at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston. But Dasha as she’s nicknamed has had lackluster performances throughout the 2018 season that hopefully will not spill into the new season. Eight tournaments she lost opening rounds with two resulting in retirements: One at the China Open due to gastrointestinal illness opposite Laura Siegemund and the other at the Qatar Open with CiCi Bellis suffering with a neck ailment. Kasatkina has been in two finals: Dubai (with Elinor Svitolina) and Indian Wells (against Naomi Osaka).
The grand slams for Kasatkina weren’t dynamic for it was last year’s Australian Open she lost to Magda Linette in the second round. It was both the French Open and Wimbledon that she bowed in the quarterfinals, to Sloane Stephens and Angelique Kerber both in straight sets. The US Open she’d drop the match during the second round to Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
The Russian’s consistency can be a bit dodgy in rounds. With this Australian Open her first round opponent, Timea Bacsinszky she must try to get the first set advantage because her self-confidence will be soaring and she’ll have a good chance to take the round. The two have played back in 2016 at Indian Wells and Kasatkina had a straight set victory. The Russian can be a streaky player and loses focus at times but when she gets motivated and flips into a higher gear, she can hit her marks and win over the best of players. Daria Kasatkina is the one to watch for suspense and entertainment. During the breaks her and coach Philippe Dehaes have comical and dramatic interactions where he gives her suggestions on being more consistent to win more points and she most likely benefits from his stringent pep talks and suggestions to perhaps take the first round of this year’s Australian Open.