MOSCOW, Russia - Daria Kasatkina stunned former champion and No.5 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets to move on in the VTB Kremlin Cup.
Between the long week at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open - which saw Pavlyuchenkova take home her third title of 2017 - and the long journey to Moscow, the Russian didn’t seem to have much left in the tank to hold off Kasatkina, falling 7-6(2), 6-1.
“The crowd was unbelievable today, it’s always special to play in our country - it’s not every week I can play in Russia,” Kasatkina said. “I’m happy that I could show my best performance in front of the crowd.”
Pavlyuchenkova, 2014 champion and 2015 finalist here in Moscow, needed a few games to get going against her younger opponent. Kasatkina took advantage to roar ahead to a 4-1 lead, not allowing Pavlyuchenkova to settle into a rhythm against her powerful groundstrokes.
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The No.5 seed switched tactics, keeping her groundstrokes more compact and playing more aggressively to claw back and level the match at 4-4. The pair stayed toe to toe until the tiebreaker, where Kasatkina soared ahead and reeled off six points in a row to close out the set.
With the first set under her belt, Kasatkina kept up her momentum as Pavlyuchenkova’s level dipped. She broke three times against the No.5 seed, who looked increasingly sluggish against Kasatkina’s high-intensity attack. The 20-year-old closed out the match after an hour and 34 minutes.
“I think it was a tough match, especially when she came back from 4-1 to 4-4,” Kasatkina explained. “It was difficult, and I knew that she came from Hong Kong in the final so I knew she was going to fight. I’m happy that in the end I won the match in two sets.”
In the second round Kasatkina will face Katerina Siniakova, who previously eased past Donna Vekic 6-0, 6-2 in her Moscow opener.
“I know Siniakova likes to play here in Moscow - I used to practice with her before the tournament when she made semis. Of course she’s going to be difficult but I’m looking forward to the next round.”