No.20 seed Daria Kasatkina continued her ruthless form at Roland Garros, defeating No.28 seed Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-2 in 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach her third major quarterfinal.
Former World No.10 Kasatkina has yet to drop a set, and indeed has conceded just 14 games in four matches so far. She has lost serve on only two occasions -- neither of which came against Giorgi, against whom she saved all six break points she faced.
The 25-year-old had not reached the second week of a Grand Slam since making back-to-back quarterfinals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2018. But having slumped to World No.71 by the end of 2020, she has essayed a resurgence over the past two years. In 2021, Kasatkina reached four Hologic WTA Tour finals, winning two of them; in Rome this month, she made her first WTA 1000 semifinal since 2018. Her season record is now 22-10.
Kasatkina improved her head-to-head against Giorgi to 2-0, having previously beaten the Italian in the 2020 Lyon quarterfinals. Giorgi, who snapped a seven-match losing streak at tour level at Roland Garros, falls to 1-3 in Grand Slam fourth rounds, but has now reached the second week of every major except the Australian Open.
Match management: A classic stylistic contrast saw Kasatkina's canny counterpunching smother Giorgi's all-out aggression. Giorgi drew gasps with several of her 29 winners, with the 30-year-old's drive volley particularly impressive. However, she also racked up 37 unforced errors as she attempted in vain to hit through Kasatkina.
Kasatkina kept a tighter ship with 16 winners and only 10 unforced errors, but it was her focus when it came to retaining her momentum that was key. Seven extended deuce games could have swung either way; Kasatkina won six of them, including all four in the first set.
Throughout, Kasatkina was adept at knowing when to lure Giorgi into patient, drawn-out rallies that invariably ended with an error from her opponent; and when to inject pace down the line herself whenever Giorgi seemed to be settling into a groove.
Kasatkina on how she has changed: "If we talk about me changing in the past six years, honestly I don't remember myself six years ago. But watching the matches from the past I can see that I'm making a bit better decisions in the important moments. Physically, I think I become better, I'm improving, I'm working a lot. So I think from my point of view this is the main changes."
Kudermetova denies Keys to reach first Grand Slam quarterfinal
In the last eight, Kasatkina will take on No.29 seed Veronika Kudermetova, who took out No.22 seed Madison Keys 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 in 1 hour and 41 minutes to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Kudermetova captured her first WTA title last year in Charleston and has continued to progress in 2022, reaching finals in Melbourne, Dubai and Istanbul as well as making her WTA 1000 quarterfinal debut in Indian Wells. The 25-year-old had never made the second week of a Grand Slam prior to this fortnight's run.
By contrast, with eight previous quarterfinal-or-better showings at majors under her belt, including at the Australian Open in January, Keys held the edge in experience. She displayed that in a dominant opening set, posting a 75% first serve percentage and losing only four points behind her first delivery. Kudermetova was not given a chance to settle, and Keys sealed the set with a delicate drop shot.
Kudermetova's increasing ability to read the Keys serve was a crucial factor in her comeback, though a flurry of Keys forehand errors gave her the first opening to break for 2-0 in the second set. Kudermetova maintained that lead to level the match, and held her nerve in an edgy final game to convert her seventh set point.
Though Keys still landed 70% of her first serves in the second set and 67% in the third, Kudermetova was getting a more consistent hold of her returns -- both for clean winners and to draw Keys into longer rallies. Keys' ratio of winners to unforced errors accordingly reversed. The 27-year-old hit 21 winners to 18 unforced errors across the first two sets, but only five winners to 13 unforced errors in the decider.
Kudermetova also displayed greater proficiency when defending. She pulled off the shot of the match en route to a 5-1 third-set lead, redirecting a full-blast Keys drive volley past the flailing American.
Looking ahead: Both born in 1997, Kasatkina and Kudermetova have risen through every level of competition together. Kudermetova won their first encounter, winning 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-3 in a 2010 U14 event in Moscow. But Kasatkina has turned the rivalry around emphatically, taking their sole U16 match, all three junior meetings and their only pro clash 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 in the 2021 St. Petersburg quarterfinals. However, this will be the first time they square off on clay.