SYDNEY, Australia - Daria Kasatkina has been on the verge of scoring a big win over a Top 10 player for months. The 19-year-old finally settled her nerves and notched the first Top 5 win of her career, beating World No.1 Angelique Kerber 7-6(5), 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals of the Apia International on Tuesday. Kasatkina faces No.10 Johanna Konta next.
The Russian phenom held match point last week against No.7 Garbiñe Muguruza before falling in a third set tiebreaker. Last season she was repeatedly on the brink of more big wins, holding decisive leads with set points and match points before she let her nerves get the better of her. Not this time.
"I was feeling really sad after these matches," Kasatkina told reporters in Sydney. "I was crying and all this stuff. But after, we made analysis of all these matches, and I was feeling that sooner or later I would start to win these matches. So I hope this moment coming.
"For me, it was important. This match was very important for me."
? WTA (@WTA) January 10, 2017
Currently ranked No.26, Kasatkina has been a young player to watch for more than a year. The athletic flair with which she plays the game and her court IQ recalls the creatives like Amélie Mauresmo, but in today's game she stands apart in her unique and fluid game-style. Last week at the Brisbane International she stood toe-to-toe with Muguruza's firepower. Against Kerber she found a way to grind through searing midday heat to goad the No.1 into error after error.
Kasatkina's star is on the rise and after getting an opportunity to measure her game against the game's elite, she's feeling more than confident about her start of the season.
"I was three matches from match point against Top 10 players, and today I beat No.1 in the world," she said. So I think I am somewhere close [to Top 10 level]."
"It was not about the score, or about the opponent," she said. "It was about my decisions in the important moments. After the match, I was going to Vlado, to my coach, I say, I know everything. You don't tell me nothing. I know all my mistakes. We don't talk about this match."
Kasatkina faces another Top 10 player in Konta on Wednesday. It will be the first meeting between the two, after Konta dispatched of Kasatkina's good friend Daria Gavrilova in straight sets. Kasatkina's challenge over the next 24 hours is to keep a level head after the biggest win of her career.
"It's just the middle of the tournament," she said with a smile. "So if I will get some shock or if I will be too much happy, you know, it's maybe can getting worse. So I'm calm. I'm happy that I won the match, and I'm looking forward to the quarterfinals tomorrow."
As for Kerber, it was another early exit from a tournament this season, and she'll go into the Australian Open having won one of three matches, after losing to Svitolina last week in Brisbane. The German looked rattled in her post-match press conference but she chalked up her error-prone display on the change of conditions from Brisbane.
"It was completely different, because in Brisbane we played also it was half indoors, so we have a roof, so it was completely different courts, balls," Kerber said. "They are flying a little bit different.
"So it was not so easy, but I will try to forget the match as soon as I can."