Things have been progressing rather fast for Daria Kasatkina, that the Russian, and her coach Philippe Dehaes, were taken a bit by surprise when she reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final with a win over Caroline Wozniacki on Monday.
Kasatkina, who turned 21 last month, managed a last-minute court change, an overnight suspension of the match due to darkness, and the tournament’s No. 2 seed in impressive fashion to set up a quarter-final meeting with US Open champion Sloane Stephens.
The match with Wozniacki was initially scheduled to take place on Court Suzanne Lenglen on Sunday but was moved to the main centre court, Philippe Chatrier, because the preceding matches had taken so long.
Play was suspended on Sunday evening with Kasatkina leading Wozniacki 7-6 (5), 3-3.
Upon resumption of play on Monday, the 14th-seeded Russian took three games in a row to wrap up her third win from three meetings against Wozniacki in 2018 and book a spot in a maiden Slam quarter-final.
Kasatkina will return to the court on Tuesday for her last-eight clash with Stephens. It is a quick turnaround not aided by the fact that Kasatkina had to move out of her rented apartment after her win on Monday and into a hotel because she didn’t know she’d still be alive in the tournament beyond June 5.
“I booked it through Airbnb. So you have to pay in advance. And you never know what is going to happen and if you are in the middle of the second week it’s fine to go to the hotel, you know. Yeah. I’m not complaining,” she said.
Kasatkina, who now has seven top-10 wins in 2018, admits she was thrown off by the last-minute court change, which accounted for some sloppy play on Sunday.
“I think this is an important experience, and I’m really happy at the end I was mentally more tough, I think,” said Kasatkina on Monday.
“I’m happy that I am getting this experience as soon as possible. I think I’m learning pretty fast to manage this critical situation.”
Her Belgian coach, Dehaes, who is famous for his inspirational on-court coaching speeches, agrees that things have been happening fairly quickly for his charge.
This year, Kasatkina reached back-to-back finals in Indian Wells and Dubai, following on from a title run in Charleston last season, and a fourth round showing at the 2017 US Open.
“Of course I’m absolutely sure she will one day win a big tournament. But I know that mentally she has to really improve a lot of things. It’s fast, it’s fast, but we enjoy it absolutely of course,” Dehaes told Sport360.
“I was absolutely impressed the way she handled [all the circumstances] because as you saw at the beginning of the match yesterday, especially the first game, she was very tight.
“She showed us all the capacity she has to manage the pressure. Of course she has to improve and that’s for sure the weakness for the moment but she did absolutely great, three games in a row against Wozniacki, it’s super.”
Kasatkina has shown lots of promise from a young age, and she made the third round in each of her first four Grand Slam appearances.
Entering her match with Wozniacki, she had broken serve 18 times – more than any other woman on her side of the draw.
Kasatkina is thrilled to hit a new career milestone.
“It means a lot, of course. It’s my first quarter-finals in the Grand Slam. But I already have to forget about it, because I’m playing already tomorrow. Yeah, already starting to think about next match,” she said.
Stephens, who cruised past Estonian Anett Kontaveit in the fourth round, is 1-1 against Kasatkina, defeating the Russian on green clay in Charleston in 2016 but losing to her in Indian Wells this year.
“It’s going to be 50-50,” said Dehaes. “For me it’s very clear, Sloane is great, she’s super-strong physically. She’s going to be a tough opponent.
“But Dasha has this advantage that on clay, she can make maybe the difference sometimes, the variety, the topspin forehand, using the slice, open the court, etc, etc, made the difference for the moment. If she can do it against Sloane, she has a good chance to win.”
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