BEIJING, China – Daria Kasatkina produced an impressive display to dispatch Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-4, 6-2 to progress through to the last eight of the China Open.
The WTA World No.45 will play her first quarterfinal outside of Russia since Wimbledon in 2018 against defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, having frustrated her compatriot on Lotus Court.
Alexandrova, the Russian No.1, made the quicker start but proved to be a storm that was blown out by Kasatkina’s shrewd changes of pace, which allowed her to come from behind to win the opening set and maintain her momentum all the way through the match.
Neither player was comfortable on serve at any point, with three breaks in the opening three games setting the tone. Although it was Alexandrova who held first to establish a 4-1 lead, the sheer tenacity of Kasatkina – and a well-timed chat with coach Carlos Martinez – saw the 22-year-old work her way back into the set.
“The Russian wall came back in China!” she said when praised for her defensive work.
“She was better at the beginning, but together with Carlos, I managed to get my game back and start to play better.
“I felt so good on the baseline. I felt that whatever she did, I was there. I got every ball back. I felt consistent in every rally and I knew she was under pressure and that she felt she had to do something special to hit a winner.”
With Alexandrova seeking to inject pace onto the ball at every opportunity, Kasatkina offered her little rhythm, playing regular high, floated topspin shots that teased the 24-year-old and induced her into a high unforced error count.
Indeed, Alexandrova made 26 such mistakes in the first set alone, fittingly crashing a forehand into the net to see it go the way of her 22-year-old opponent.
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Kasatkina had won five games in succession to pull the first set in her direction and maintained her form into the opening games of the second as she established a 2-0 lead.
Although her vulnerable service was broken, the pressure was immediately released as her opponent played another incredibly loose game to present the former Top 10 star with an insurance break once more.
To her credit, the WTA World No.33 realized the match was slipping away and changed up her tactics, approaching the net more in an attempt to force Kasatkina into hitting harder. But she rarely looked in control when in the forecourt and as a double fault slipped long she found herself 5-1 down.
Kasatkina saw her next service game slip away courtesy in part due to a deft dropshot from Alexandrova, but she held next time out to seal the win.
For the first time in 2019, Kasatkina has won three successive matches and is feeling upbeat about her tennis once more.
“The past season’s been a disaster,” she admitted. “I worked a lot – on every aspect of myself – and this is proof that if you work with the right direction, it’ll come sooner or later.
“You never know which week will change your game... I’m just upset it’s coming back to me at the end of the season. It would have been even better to have had a few more tournaments.”