Daria Kasatkina became the first player to win two titles in 2021 with her run to the championship of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy .
Kasatkina defeated Margarita Gasparyan 6-3, 2-1 (ret.) in Sunday's final to become the first Russian winner of the event. The victory came four weeks after she ended her two-year title drought at the Phillip Island Trophy in Melbourne.
With her win, Kasatkina has jumped back inside the Top 50, at No.42.
The former World No.10 spoke to WTA Insider after her title run in St. Petersburg to discuss the keys to her winning week. She also reflected on why her pair of titles seemed so far away when she boarded the plane for Abu Dhabi to start her season in January.
WTA Insider: You've now won 11 of your past 12 matches. How are you feeling on the court right now and how different is the confidence you're feeling right now compared to the start of the season?
Kasatkina: Feels great. This long trip started in Abu Dhabi. I left my home on January 2nd. It's been three months and I'm coming home with two titles. It's just great.
I couldn't imagine I could do it, especially to win here in St. Petersburg, one of my favorite tournaments. I always had a dream to win here and the trophy looks amazing. I'm a big fan of trophies. Feels great.
WTA Insider: When you won the Phillip Island Trophy you said that the match you played against Pavlyuchenkova that week unlocked something within you. Was there something like that this week? Or was this just a carry-over of how you've been feeling?
Kasatkina: First of all, I felt much better than in Melbourne. Which match changed the situation in this tournament? I think this one was against [Aliaksandra] Sasnovich because I really pushed myself and opened some door in my tennis during the third-set tiebreak. This changed a lot. Also the match was pretty good.
WTA Insider: What do you think you found in that third set against Sasnovich?
Kasatkina: I think for the first time in my life I played a very brave tiebreak. I mean, the first one was maybe against Tauson, but with Tauson it was a second-set tiebreak and against Sasnovich it was a third-set tiebreak, which is a little bit different. I played a pretty good couple of points.
Before in the tiebreaks, I was much more shy, let's say. This time I decided to change a little bit because I realized that if you're not playing brave and aggressive in the tiebreak you're probably going to lose it. This changed, maybe.
WTA Insider: You're the first Russian champion in St. Petersburg, you're the first Russian to win both St. Petersburg and Moscow, and you've made three finals on home soil. What is it about playing at home that brings out your best tennis?
.@DKasatkina's victory in St. Petersburg was the Russian's second title at home 🇷🇺— wta (@WTA) March 21, 2021
Take a look back at the last 30 players to win WTA singles titles in their own countries 🌎
Kasatkina: I know there are a couple of players who cannot play at home. I think I'm lucky that I am playing my best tennis at home, actually. I don't know why. I feel great here, with the atmosphere, with the courts. When I go out of the courts for example, in the players restaurant to the player desk, I know everyone.
I feel like I'm at home, which it actually is. This makes the difference.
WTA Insider: Take me back to the start of the season. How did you feel as you were boarding the plane to Abu Dhabi?
Kasatkina: I was excited first of all, because I didn't play for two months because there were no tournaments. I had a long pre-season. At the same time I was a little bit stressed because I didn't play for two months [laughs].
But in the end, I was happy to hit the road again and start the new season. It was a very long beginning of the season. I played six tournaments, almost in a row. It's been great. I couldn't imagine it could be that good.
WTA Insider: Everyone is so optimistic at the start of the season. But did you honestly think you would come home with two titles?
Kasatkina: Of course not. I was ready for the worst. I was ready to lose every first round and go home feeling like a piece of nothing [laughs].
I had no expectations, absolutely, because you never know. At the beginning of the season, with all these tough things, now it's different to travel with the restrictions. You don't know how you're going to react. Maybe you will be so stressed that you will not be able to compete at all. So those are the expectations, which makes everything that's going on now even better.
WTA Insider: Do you think you're doing well despite the restrictions, or do you feel like maybe the restrictions and playing in a bubble might help you?
Kasatkina: I'm a little bit lucky in this way because I can stay in my hotel room forever (laughs). I will be happy with that. But I know many players just cannot. They need to go somewhere, to talk to the people, to change the atmosphere.
But even me, a nerd who likes to stay in the room all day long, even me I start to get really tired. It's tough. Almost three months.
We're lucky to travel, but at the same time it's not real travel. We're just changing the locations. With all the restrictions, you need to make a test every 4-5 days and if you want to leave the place you have to do another test. Now you have additional thoughts, stressful thoughts in your head, which makes it more complicated for sure.
WTA Insider: In Melbourne you talked about all the work you were doing with a sports psychologist. Have you been able to continue that work while you've been on the road?
Kasatkina: When you feel good and you don't feel like you don't need the help, you don't do it. But when you feel it, for sure you need something.
For the moment I'm fine. Yes, sometimes if I feel a bit overloaded I'm asking for help. But 100 times less than last year, for example, which is I think a good improvement.
WTA Insider: What are you going to do to recharge your batteries ahead of the clay season?
Kasatkina: Obviously I need to rest. I pulled out of Miami because it was too much to go from St. Petersburg to Miami and play the next day. And also I'm already feeling like I'm getting tired, especially from the traveling.
So I want to stay these weeks before my first tournament on clay to stay in my base and practice with my coach and live for a few weeks in a normal situation. Don't pack and unpack the bags every five days. Just stay in one place for a bit.
WTA Insider: Are you going to see your parents at all? Or are you going to go straight to Spain?
Kasatkina: Actually I went after Australia. I went back home to Togliatti. I hung in there for 2½ weeks. Nothing changed there, to be honest. Unfortunately [laughs].