Daria Kasatkina: "I just fell in love with Rafa Nadal's playing style" - UBITENNIS
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Daria Kasatkina: “I just fell in love with Rafa Nadal’s playing style”



Russian rising star Daria Kasatkina lost to Naomi Osaka in straight sets in the Indian Wells final, but she has reached her career-high of number 11 after a dream week in which she beat four Grand Slam champions. Venus Williams, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki and Sloane Stephens en route to the title match. Naomi Osaka also moved up in the WTA Rankings, rising from world number 44 to number 22 after her maiden WTA Premier Mandatory title. For the first time since 2001 two young players under the age of 21 played in the Indian Wells final.

“Naomi was much better than me today. She really deserved to win. I think we were both nervous at the beginning because of the biggest finals so far. During the match she was able to manage her nerves and stuff, and I was still a bit tight during the match”, said Kasatkina.

Kasatkina was born on 7th May 1997 in Tolyatti. Her father Sergey works at the Volga Automobile Plant, and her mother is a housewife. She started playing tennis at the age of six and won the Junior Fed Cup in 2013, when Russia beat Australia in the final. Daria started her professional career in 2013 and one year later she won her first Grand Slam Junior title at the French Open beating Ivana Jorovic in the final. She made her senior Grand Slam debut in the main draw as a lucky loser at the 2015 US Open after Maria Sharapova withdrew due to injury problems. She beat Daria Gavrilova and Ana Konjuh to reach the third round, before losing to Kristina Mladenovic. Later that year she beat her first career doubles title at the Moscow Kremlin Cup with Elena Vesnina.

Kasatkina has been inspired by Rafael Nadal since she started playing tennis.

“I watched all his matches on television, when she won the French Open in 2005. I just fell in love with his playing style and his character. I have always been inspired by him. I love everything about him, how he plays and how he behaves. For me he is the perfect example to be as a sportsman. When I watch him, he plays with a lot of spin. I was trying to play the same”, revealed Kasatkina.

Kasatkina made her first major breakthrough in January 2016 when she beat defending champion Venus Williams at the ASB Classic in Auckland, but lost in the third round at the Australian Open to Serena Williams. In the following weeks Daria made her debut in the Fed Cup winning the dead doubles match with Ekaterina Makarova. She went on to reach the semifinals in St. Petersburg before losing to Belinda Bencic. She reached her first Premier Mandatory quarter final in Indian Wells, before losing to Karolina Pliskova in straight sets. During the 2016 summer she reached the third round at Wimbledon, losing to Venus Williams in three sets and reached her second Premier quarter final at the Rogers Cup, before losing to Angelique Kerber. She qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she lost to Madison Keys in the quarter finals of the singles tournament and reached the quarter finals in the doubles with her teammate Svetlana Kuznetsova.

She beat Angelique Kerber in Sydney in January 2017 to reach the quarter finals. She beat the German player for the second time in the second round of the Qatar Open before losing to Olympic champion Monica Puig in the quarter finals. She claimed her maiden WTA title in Charleston beating Jelena Ostapenko in the final.

Kasatkina started the 2018 season with two first-round defeats against Kaia Kanepi in Brisbane and Barbora Strycova in Sydney. She was beaten by Magda Linette in the second round at the Australian Open. She beat Melbourne champion Caroline Wozniacki in St. Petersburg before losing to defending champion Kristina Mladenovic in the semifinal.

Kasatkina beat Katerina Siniakova in Indian Wells to become Russia’s new world number 1 player overtaking Svetlana Kuznetsova, who was the top player from that country for 85 weeks since May 2016. Kasatkina beat 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in straight sets to score her fourth win against a reigning Grand Slam champion after beating Jelena Ostapenko at the 2017 US Open, Caroline Wozniacki in St. Petersburg 2018 and Garbine Muguruza in Dubai. At Indian Wells Kasatkina beat Sloane Stephens, 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki for the second time and another former Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber in straight sets in the quarter finals. In the semifinal Kasatkina beat Venus Williams in three sets to score her fourth straight win over a Grand Slam champion in one week.

During the post-match press conference the 20-year-old Russian player revealed the biggest dream of her career.

“My tennis dream ? I have already answered these questions 500 times. I wish to win four Grand Slams and the Olympic Games in one year.”

Kasatkina has already beaten a top 2 player five times before turning 21 (Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber twice and Simona Halep once). Despite the defeat in the final Kasatkina was proud of her achievement.

“I was holding this level of game at the same level, like almost all the matches. I beat very good players. In the right moments I was doing the right decisions, so it means I am growing as a player. So this is the most important thing for me”.



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Karolina Pliskova Finding Her Footing With The Help Of New Coach Krajan



Karolina Pliskova (CZE) playing against Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) in the semi-final of the Ladies' Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 10 Thursday 08/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Simon Bruty

Karolina Pliskova’s resurgence on the Tour comes at a time when she has formed a new partnership with a well-known coach. 

After her first round loss at the Australian Open to Elena Rybakina, the Czech won nine consecutive matches on the Tour. In Romania, she claimed her 17th WTA title at the Winners Open before reaching the semi-finals of a WTA 1000 event in Doha. However, she was unable to play her semi-final clash against Iga Swiatek due to a lower back injury. During this period she has improved her ranking from 77th to 36th. 

Pliskova began the season without a coach at her side but is now working with Croatia’s Zeljko Krajan. A partnership she believes is showing promising signs already. 

“Personality-wise, I think he’s kind of similar to me,” Pliskova told WTA Insider. “Not really high or low. Relaxed and very like calm. 
“We didn’t really plan yet anything because now the schedule was difficult. I might be in qualifying in Indian Wells. Maybe I enter San Diego. So I don’t really know what’s gonna be. I’m just living day by day at the moment.” 

Krajan has worked with a series of players on both the WTA and ATP Tour’s. He guided Dinara Safina to three Grand Slam finals between 2008 and 2010. He has also worked with Borna Coric, Laura Robson, Marcos Baghdatis, Jelena Jankovic and Dominika cibulkova.

Pliskova, who is a former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam finalist, has endured a roller-coaster journey on the Tour in recent months with mixed results. Last season she failed to win back-to-back matches at 11 consecutive tournaments. 

So how has she managed to regain her form on the Tour?

“Motivation was never really a problem for me,” Pliskova said. “If I go on the court no matter how bad or good I feel, I always want to win. I always want to compete. 
“But my game is based on confidence and I need to feel that. Even if I’m not playing well or winning many matches, I just need to find that confidence in that moment or in that game because it’s just so risky. My shots are so flat, so I go for mostly lines. If something is not going well or you start to doubt, then of course you miss a little bit. Everything is about this.”

Unseeded at this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships, Pliskova beat China’s Zhang Shuai in the first round. She will next play Ashlyn Krueger in the second round on Tuesday.

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Elena Rybakina Eases Past Kasatkina To Win Abu Dhabi Open



Elena Rybakina has captured her second title of the season after beating an erratic Daria Kasatkina in straight sets at the Abu Dhabi Open. 

The world No.5 stormed to a 6-1, 6-4, win over the Russian in just over an hour. It is the third time in Rybakina’s career that she has beaten Kasatkina on the Tour and she now leads their head-to-head 3-2. The triumph comes a month after she won the Brisbane International, which is also a WTA 500 event. 

Rybakina’s latest match saw her capitalise on her opponent’s costly mistakes. Kasatkina struggled with her serve throughout the majority of the final and only managed to hold twice in eight attempts. Opening the door for the former Wimbledon champion who hit 17 winners against 12 unforced errors en route to victory. 

“I want to thank the fans who came this week,” said the new champion. “It has been an amazing atmosphere, especially to see flags from Kazakhstan. It means a lot, thank you so much.”

A one-sided 25-minute opening set saw Rybakina claim four straight games to clinch an early lead. During to the opener, Kasatkina only managed to win 26% of her service points. It was the fourth time in the tournament that the Kazakh had won a set by conceding two or fewer games. 

Fortunately for world No.14 Kasatkina and the crowd, there was more of a battle in the second frame. Twice in a row Rybakina worked her way to a break advantage before losing it in the following game. Then at 4-4, she dealt the decisive blow by hitting a clean forehand winner to break yet against and this time had a chance to serve for the title. With the rain starting to fall, she converted her first championship point with the help of another error from across the net. 

The defeat for Kasatkina comes a day after she came through a marathon three-hour semi-final match before criticising the WTA over their tournament scheduling. She is currently set to play in the Qatar Open with her opening match taking place tomorrow. It is the sixth time in a row she has been beaten by a top-five player on the Tour. 

“Congratulations to Elena, you’ve had a great week,” she said.
“Thanks to my team who has always been next to me. I am really proud of the job we’ve done and how we are doing. Thanks for always believing in me.”

Rybakina also referred to the demanding calendar during the trophy presentation. 

“Tough week (for Kasatkina), especially the last matches. Tomorrow there is already a match in Doha but hopefully, we will both recover and do well there. Maybe also play (against each other) in the final there,” she said. 

Unlike Kasatkina, Rybakina has a first round bye in Doha. She has now won seven WTA trophies so far in her career. 

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Ons Jabeur Hoping For Better Fortunes In Doha Despite Injury Concerns



Ons Jabeur (TUN) playing against Venus Williams (USA) on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Credit: AELTC/Jon Super

Ons Jabeur is optimistic that she will be ready in time to play at her next event in Doha after suffering an emotional exit from Dubai on Friday. 

The two-time Wimbledon finalist was in tears during her straight sets loss to Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia in the quarter-finals. Jabeur later revealed that her emotional reaction was linked to the reoccurrence of a knee injury in recent days which has troubled her in the past. She said the pain can differ at various tournaments but in Dubai, it was causing her significant discomfort. 

“I’m an open book, an emotional person. I like to show myself. One thing I have learned is to accept the emotion, and if I try to hide it, it will not make me feel good,” Jabeur told reporters in Doha at a pre-tournament press conference. 
“So it’s good to let it out and be done with it than to keep it inside and probably will make more problems for you later.”

Despite the setback, the world No.6 intends to play at the Doha Open which gets underway today. She will be the fourth seed in this year’s draw and will be playing in the event for the first time since 2022. Last year she was forced to skip the Middle East swing after having surgery to treat an enlarged nodule which was obstructing her airway and preventing oxygen from reaching her lungs. 

“I’m very happy to be back. I’m obviously happier than last year,” she said. “I’m glad to be united with my fans here, and hopefully it’s going be a great week for me.
“I have been struggling with the knee for a long time, and last week was very, very tough. Hopefully, I can recover in time and then play better here in Doha.”  

This time of the year has always meant a lot to the Tunisian, who has spoken on numerous occasions about her aim to inspire more players from her region to take up tennis. She is the first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam final, crack the top 10 in the WTA rankings and qualify for the season-ending Tour Finals. 

“It is very important to be here to connect with Arabic crowds. I feel so much love here in the region, and obviously, that’s one of the reasons I chose to play Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Dubai, because I feel so good here.” She said.

Declaring she is ‘happy’ with her rhythm on the court, Jabeur will begin her campaign in Doha against either Lesia Tsurenko or Turkish wild card Zeynep Sonmez.

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