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”

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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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Alycia Parks Stuns Garcia To Win First Tour Title In Lyon

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Image via WTA Twitter

Rising star Alycia Parks is on the verge of breaking into the world’s top 50 for the first time after stunning world No.4 Caroline Garcia in straight sets to win the Lyon Open. 

 

22-year-old Parks, who contested just three WTA main draws last year, battled to a 7-6(7), 7-5, win over Garcia who is the first top-five player she has beaten on the Tour. Throughout the final, the American didn’t drop serve after saving all four break points she faced. In total, she produced 28 winners with 15 of those being aces. It is only the second time she has beaten a top 10 player on the Tour after Maria Sakkari at the Ostrava Open last year. 

“I want to thank you for all coming out, this title means a lot to me,” Parks said afterwards. “France has a special part in my heart right now. I want to congratulate Garcia, you had an amazing week, keep playing how you’re playing.”

The victory caps off what has been a breakthrough week for Parks who dropped two sets in five matches played which was in her opening two rounds. Earlier in the tournament, she also defeated seventh seed Danka Kovinic and fourth seed Petra Martic to become only the third unseeded player to win a WTA event so far this year.  

Parks was ranked 199th in the world 12 months ago but has climbed up the rankings and is now set to break into the world’s top 70 for the first time on Monday. Towards the end of last year, she won back-to-back WTA 125 tournaments and has now won 16 out of her last 17 matches played. Her only loss was to Czech teenager Sara Bejlek in the second round of qualifying at the Australian Open.

As for Garcia, Sunday’s clash was the first time she had contested a WTA final in her home city of Lyon. Coming into her clash with Parks, she had won 10 out of her last 11 finals played on the Tour. It is the 40th time in her career she has lost to an American player in a WTA main draw.

Congrats on an amazing week and the (past) couple of months have been unbelievable (for you),” said Garcia. “It’s your first WTA title today and it was well deserved. You played amazing and if you keep playing like this you are for sure going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks, who graduated from High School in 2019, is coached on the Tour by her father Michael who has been her main mentor since childhood. 

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Garbine Muguruza Switches Focus From Ranking Points To Enjoyment In Hunt For Form

Ranked outside the WTA top 80 for the first time since 2013, Muguruza is hoping to stage a comeback with the help of a new perspective.

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Garbine Muguruza (ESP) waves to the crowd after defeating Fiona Ferro (FRA) on No.2 Court in the first round of the Ladies' Singles at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 1 Monday 28/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Edward Whitaker

To say that last year was tough for Gabine Muguruza is a bit of an understatement. 

 

The Spaniard started 2022 among the best players in the world and was ranked No.3 as a result of her triumph at the WTA Finals just a couple of months earlier. However, the year didn’t go as planned for two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza who won just 12 matches. In total, she played in 17 tournaments but only managed to score back-to-back victories in two of them. In October she plummeted down the rankings from 13th to 57th. 

Muguruza’s problems have continued into this season. She is yet to win a match and is now down to 82nd in the world which is her lowest position in almost a decade. January 2013 was the last time the 29-year-old was ranked outside the top 100. 

“I’ve had so many moments in my career where I’ve been so high, and other moments when I’ve not been so high. It’s a process of trying to get back up there,” the former world No.1 told The National. “Now I’m focusing on training hard and being humble.
“You have to know that maybe you haven’t had the success recently as you had in other years, but that’s fine because things can change very quickly.
“With tennis, one week it can go wrong, then next week it can go well, then everything changes again. I think experience helps me to stay calm in the not-so-good moments when I haven’t been playing as well or results haven’t followed.”

It is a frustrating situation for somebody of Muguruza’s ability to be in. At the 2021 WTA Finals, she scored four wins over top-10 players but since then hasn’t beaten anybody ranked higher than No.31 in the world. 

Eager to get back to the top of the sport, she has decided to change her outlook on how she approaches the Tour. Muguruza, who is coached by Conchita Martinez, now says her main priority is enjoying her tennis. If this is achieved, she is confident the results will follow in due course. 

“I feel that this year it’s more about keeping it calm and more simple,” she said. “Last year I put myself under a lot of pressure, telling myself to keep going to stay at the top all the time. That definitely didn’t help me, and it was a bit of a struggle.
“This year, yes ranking is important – I’ve been at every possible ranking – but that is not my priority anymore. Now it’s about enjoying my time on court and taking the trophies back home, then we’ll see what the ranking is.”

Muguruza’s next test will be at the Abu Dhabi Open, which will get underway on Monday. She has been drawn to play Karolina Pliskova in the first round who recently reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. Then if she wins, she faces Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina. 

“I played some good tennis [in Australia]. A bit disappointed about the quarter-final but overall my level is there. Of course, there are some things to improve to become more solid but overall the situation is quite good,” Pliskova said ahead of the first round clash. 

12 months ago Muguruza reached the third round in Abu Dhabi before losing to Maria Sakkari. 

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Injured Bianca Andreescu retires From Semi-Final match In Hua Hin

The Canadian was looking to book a spot in her first WTA final of the year but was forced to retire after injuring her right shoulder.

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BIANCA ANDREESCU OF CANADA - PHOTO: ALBERTO NEVADO / MMO

Lesia Tsurenko booked her spot in the final of the Thailand Open in Hua Hin after Bianca Andreescu was forced to retire whilst down 7-6, 4-0.

 

The first set was extremely tight with the first four games being breaks of serve. Andreescu got the crucial break to lead 5-3 and served for the first set but the Ukrainian fought back to level the set at 5-5. Then Tsurenko was the one to break serve but she was able to close out the first set.

After the opener, the semi-final clash went completely one-sided with Tsurenko taking over by winning four games off the trot before Andreescu decided to call it quits. The Canadian had a medical timeout during a second set changeover.

Tsurenko gave full credit to her opponent and despite the retirement says it was a very difficult match.

“Bianca is such an amazing player she said. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today”. She said.

Tsurenko is looking to win her fifth WTA title and will be playing in her first final since 2019 in Hua Hin. She faces the China’s Lin Zhu who earlier in the day beat the number seven seed Xinyu Wang 6-2, 6-4, in one hour and 38 minutes to book her spot in the final.

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