Daria Kasatkina overcomes Venus Williams to become youngest Indian Wells finalist in seven years

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Young and fearless: Daria Kasatkina.

Daria Kasatkina became the youngest Indian Wells women’s finalist since 2011 as she fought from a set down to defeat Venus Williams 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 on Friday.

At 20-years-old, Kasatkina is the youngest woman to make the final in the California desert since Caroline Wozniacki seven years ago, and she has done it by defeating four top-20 opponents in a row.

The world No. 19 is into the first Premier Mandatory final of her career, and second title match in a row, having placed runner-up in Dubai three weeks ago.

Kasatkina improved her record in career semi-finals to 4-3 and her record against Venus to 2-1. She was two points away from defeat but fought hard to get the victory, just like she did when she saved a combined five match points en route to the Dubai final last month.

“A bit tired,” Kasatkina said with a laugh on court after her win. “I was missing these emotions after Dubai and I finally got it.

“I don’t know (how I turned it around).

“I’m ready, one match to go. Thank you guys, thank you so much,” she told the crowd after her two-hour 48-minute triumph.

Venus and Kasatkina had split their two previous meetings heading into Friday’s contest, with both matches going the distance. Their most recent encounter was tight Wimbledon third round that saw Venus come back from a break down in the deciding set to win 10-8 in the third.

Kasatkina was playing her first Premier Mandatory semi-final, and third semi-finals of 2018.

Before the match, Kasatkina said she was looking forward to playing on Centre Court at the prime time slot of 7pm. The 20-year-old is never one to shy away from the big stage and she was keen to prove her mettle against the best, at one of the best tournaments in the world.

Both players entered the match having not dropped a set en route to the semi-finals.

Kasatkina had three top-20 wins under her belt already this fortnight and was searching for a fourth.

The 19th-ranked Kasatkina started the clash with a service break but a lucky net cord for Venus saw the American get a chance to strike back right away. A loose forehand saw Kasatkina hand the break back and they were on level terms at 1-all.

The Russian broke serve again then held at love for a 3-1 lead. But Kasatkina looked like she wasn’t feeling her forehand, and she overcooked a few of them to get broken as Venus made it 3-all.

Venus took a fourth consecutive game to lead 5-3, putting pressure on the Kasatkina serve to gain the advantage.

Serving for the opening set, Venus gets broken. Kasatkina brought out her full spectrum of variety on her shots, lobbing and slicing, and getting break point with a spinning drop shot that left Venus scrambling.

Kasatkina double-faulted to face a first set point and over-hit a forehand long to lose the opening set.

Her coach Philippe Dehaes came to court between sets and told Kasatkina to do two things. The first was to go to the net more often to finish off the points up front.

The second was this: “She’s 37 and you’re 20. Make her work!”

Kasatkina did both upon resumption of play and got an early break and consolidated for a 3-1 lead.

Venus faced two break points in game five but saved both and just like she did in the first set, the No. 8 seed got the break back and drew level for 3-all.

Kasatkina was not letting go though and broke again to inch ahead 4-3. A marathon eighth game saw Kasatkina eke out a service hold and she served out the second set to force a decider.

Venus got her hands on a break point on Kasatkina’s first service game of the third set. The seven-time Grand Slam champion broke on an inside-out forehand winner to go up 2-0.

Kasatkina went up 0-40 on the Venus serve in the next game but the American saved all three break points just as the clock hit the two-hour mark. Still Kasatkina got the break back on her fourth opportunity and held for 2-2.

A huge backhand from Venus saw her save a break point in game seven and she hung on for a 4-3 lead.

Kasatkina was up against it as she served to stay in the match at 4-5. She started with two nervy points to fall behind 0-30 but held her nerve to hold.

A killer spinning drop shot from Kasatkina dropped jaws across the stadium and a Venus double fault saw the world No. 8 face two break points. And Venus double-faulted again to gift Kasatkina the break, and a chance to serve for the match.

A long all from Venus gave Kasatkina triple match point and the young Russian converted on her second opportunity.

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