SAN JOSE, Calif. -- World No.12 Daria Kasatkina rallied from a set down to oust Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 1-6, 6-2, 6-0 in the first round of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic. A finalist in San Jose last summer, Kasatkina withstood the early barrage from Rybakina and then held firm to win 12 of the last 14 games of the match.
Kasatkina's consistency wins the day: Rybakina raced out of the blocks in the first set, as the powerful 23-year-old quickly showed how she became the Hologic WTA Tour's newest major champion. She stymied Kasatkina's ground game with 15 winners to 12 unforced errors, while Kasatkina managed two winners and 11 unforced errors.
The second set saw Kasatkina improve her work rate and force Rybakina into longer rallies. The longest game of the match saw Kasatkina pull Rybakina into a five-deuce game and finally break serve for the first time, leading 3-1. With the momentum in hand, Kasatkina was off to the races. She dropped just one game for the rest of the match.
"I was trying to be more consistent first of all because Elena is an incredible player," Kasatkina said. "She just won a Slam and she's one of the most aggressive players on tour. What I can do is make her miss. It's the best that I can do."
"In the second set, I was able to turn the match around. It was a very important game at 2-1 her serve. I made the break and after this things were going my way."
Kasatkina made good on her game plan. After making 11 unforced errors in the first set, she made just nine for the rest of the match. In the face of Kasatkina's consistency and tireless defense, Rybakina buckled, striking 36 unforced errors in the final two sets.
Kasatkina keeps her focus: "I was trying not to follow the score. It's very tough, it's almost impossible," Kasatkina said. "I knew that the high-level hitters especially, as soon as you lose the concentration and they find a few winners, they are back. From 3-0 it can easily become 3-all and it's another story. So I was trying to push myself to be really focused on these points because I'm a bit jet-lagged and my mind was a bit in the fog. Happy that I was able to make this step in my mentality."
Rybakina breaks down her struggles: "I was playing well in the first set and then conditions changed a bit and I think physically, focus I lost completely in the end," Rybakina said. "It was a really tough match for me today."
"Of course it was a tough week after Wimbledon. I had many things to do, I had a lot of traveling. It wasn't easy, of course. I didn't have enough time to prepare for the hard season. I just wanted to come here and try my best because I knew I was coming to a very tough tournament. Here there are so many great players and I knew I could play in the first round with someone in the Top 10. Like Dasha, she played in the final here last year. I'm just happy that I'm here and I started my matches, so hopefully it will just be better and better."
Next for Kasatkina: A semifinalist in Rome and Roland Garros, Kasatkina is in the midst of one of the best seasons of her career. She will face Taylor Townsend in the second round.