Kasatkina Sets Up Halep Showdown
Published March 22, 2016 12:14
In the opening months of 2016, Kasatkina has been making great strides up the rankings, gatecrashing the Top 40 for the first time after her quarterfinal run in Indian Wells.
The young Russian carried this form into the early stages of her first-round meeting with Bondarenko, breaking three times to wrap up the first set in 27 minutes. When she then broke in the opening game of the second, a routine victory looked on the cards.
However, such thoughts were soon parked as Bondarenko capitalized on some uncharacteristically sloppy mistakes to level to contest in emphatic fashion. In the decider Kasatkina struck first, before exhibiting tremendous poise to hold onto her own serve in a titanic sixth game and close out a 6-2, 1-6, 6-2 victory.
"I started the match well, but in the second set I started to give her some chances and she came back," Kasatkina said. "It was really tough to get the momentum back, but I did it and I'm very happy because it's my first time in Miami."
Twelve months ago, Kasatkina, then ranked well outside the Top 200, had just qualified for an ITF Circuit event on the other side of Florida, in Palm Harbour. Since then her rise has been rapid, but the 18-year-old is eager for the perks of an even loftier ranking: "Nothing really changed - because I'm still not seeded! It's just a ranking. If I was seeded I would get a bye, but it's one more match I have to play."
Her reward is a meeting with No.5 seed Simona Halep on Thursday. "She's great player for sure so it will be difficult, but I will watch matches with my coach and we will talk about how to play her."
Among the other early winners were Barbora Strycova, Teliana Pereira and Zhang Shuai. Strycova needed less than an hour to see off Anna-Lena Friedsam, 6-2, 6-0, while Zhang was nearly as swift in dispatching junior Wimbledon champion Sofya Zhuk, 6-1, 6-2.
In the tournament's opening match on Grandstand, Pereira had more difficulty winning her all-Brazilian clash with Beatriz Haddad Maia, eventually prevailing 7-6(2), 6-1.