Last year’s finalist Daria Kasatkina said she is going through a “crisis” after she made a second round exit from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Kasatkina, a runner-up to Elina Svitolina in the Emirates last season, came to Dubai this week having not won a tour match in four attempts this year.
The 21-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough 2018, which saw her win her home tournament in Moscow, reach the finals at Indian Wells and Dubai, and make the quarters of the French Open and Wimbledon. She cracked the top-10 for the first time at the end of the year and looked on course for another big breakthrough in 2019.
But the new season did not start as well as Kasatkina would have hoped, with her latest disappointment coming in Dubai, where she squandered a lead in the third set to lose 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to Sonya Kenin in the second round on Tuesday.
While Kasatkina had a slow start to last season as well, she was able to turn things around early February, when she reached the semi-finals in St. Petersburg before making the final in Dubai. This year, the young Russian’s struggles are taking a bit longer to overcome and Kasatkina admits the pressure that has come with her rise from last year has been tricky to handle.
“The start of the season completely sucks. Even worse than last year. But I think most players go through these periods, through these crises, so I think I just have to push myself and see this situation from the positive side,” a dejected Kasatkina told Sport360 in Dubai.
“It’s not about tennis, it’s more mental. Maybe I’m just a little bit tired from the last season, because it’s very tough, very stressful for me so I think I’m a little bit tired from the mental part.”
Fans may have noticed that Kasatkina was not accompanied by her coach Philippe Dehaes in Dubai but she assures they are still working together and that he simply had a week off to spend time with his family, before they reunite in Indian Wells.
Kasatkina is trying to draw on her success from last year to get through this challenging period.
“Of course I’m thinking about it. A few days I went on the empty centre court in the tribunes, trying to imagine the matches I played there last year,” she revealed.
“This is the kind of motivation, when you are down. Reminding yourself about the best matches of your career, this helps a lot.”
Asked to recall other times in her tennis journey where she experienced a downturn and managed to flip it around, Kasatkina added: “It was different, it was easier, it was not that much pressure, not that much stress situations. You’re growing up, you’re getting more mature. You just have to go through it, through this period. For everybody it’s different, I just have to find my way to correct this situation.”