By Chris Oddo | Monday January 9, 2016
19-year-old Daria Kasatkina claimed her first career Top 5 by taking out Angelique Kerber in straight sets in Sydney.
Photo Source: Brett Hemmings/Getty
Daria Kasatkina is a player with a very high ceiling. The 19-year-old Russian showed the world why on Tuesday when she knocked off reigning World No.1 Angelique Kerber, 7-6(5), 6-2 to reach the second round of the Apia International Sydney.
“It’s difficult to explain,” said Kasatkina on court after the match. “I beat No.1 in the world—doesn’t happen every day.”
Kasatkina has been a rising force on tour for the last year, but the World No.26 had never notched a Top 5 win—until today.
Kasatkina Battled through a hard-fought first set that saw her surrender an early break and fail to convert a set point in the tenth game before finally grabbing the set when Kerber sailed a return long.
But it was really the penultimate point of the opening set that showcased the essence of Kasatkina talent. At 5-5 in the tiebreaker Kasatkina struck a perfectly placed inside-out backhand at the end of a long rally that Kerber could not run down. It was the type of high-risk shot that Kasatkina needs to end points with because she doesn’t possess the power to regularly end point with booming winners.
In the second set Kasatkina broke open a 2-2 tie by taking the final four games on the trot.
She saved six of seven break points and converted three of four break points in that second set.
Kerber struggled and only hit made 42 percent of first serves in the second set.
Kasatkina came close to notching a big upset last week at Brisbane, but fell in a third-set tiebreaker to Garbiñe Muguruza.
She will move on to face No.6-seeded Johanna Konta in the quarterfinals. Konta eased past Daria Gavrilova, 6-1, 6-3.
Bouchard Keeps Cibulkova Under Her Thumb
Eugenie Bouchard won for the fourth time in five career matches against No.3-seeded Dominika Cibukova on Tuesday. The Canadian broke five times on eight opportunities to set up a quarterfinal clash with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Pavlyuchenkova defeated compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-3.
No.10-seeded Caroline Wozniacki rolled past Yulia Putintseva, 6-0, 7-5, while Barbora Strycova (d. No.9 Vinci) and Duan Ying-Ying (d. Vandeweghe) were also winners.
Our Take: It’s starting to get a little scary when it comes to Kerber. She has lost two of three matches thus far, and had to go three sets to earn her only victory against World No.232 Ashleigh Barty. Can she pull it together in time to defend her title at the Australian Open? Is she healthy? It’s hard to say and hard to tell. Probably the worst thing that happened to Kerber is the off-season. She had such a magical run going for all of 2016, and taking two months off has naturally curtailed some of that momentum. She has returned to the tour with a big target on her back and not much time to get that special feeling back.
But Kerber is the ultimate professional, and she knows what she needs to do to put her best foot forward at the majors. She’ll do everything in her power to ready herself for the year’s first major.
As far as Kasatkina goes, the win is great news for her, and certainly no fluke. She played a very solid match and battled through a very nerve-wracking first set before taking things over in the second. The talented Russian will be one to watch all season—look for her to make a push for the Top-15 and maybe Top-10 by the end of the season.