Kasatkina Claims Her First WTA Singles Title
By: Joel Drucker
The matchup was a surprise: two unseeded players had reached the finals of the Volvo Car Open. But it also intrigued. Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, ranked 66th in the world, and the Russian, 42nd-ranked Daria Kasatkina, were not only both just 19 years old, but each was seeking her first WTA singles title. It was the first all-teenage final on tour in more than seven years.
The first four games were spirited, the style contrast between these two demonstrated quite vividly. Ostapenko – who’d struck an astounding 40 winners in her quarterfinal win over 2011 champion Caroline Wozniacki – had the heavy-duty artillery in the form of her concussive groundstrokes. Kasatkina, far more measured, absorbed those blows – and then struck. With Ostapenko serving at 2-2, 15-30, Kasatkina laced a deep backhand crosscourt service return that in turn gave her the chance to delicately carve another crosscourt backhand – in this case, a deft drop that elicited a pair of break points that in time put her ahead 3-2.
Though Ostapenko broke back for 3-all, in large part, by this stage, the terms had been dictated – more by Kasatkina’s variety than Ostapenko’s power. Kasatkina broke again at 3-3, held easily at 15 and then again took Ostapenko’s serve to win the first set, 6-3.
What was happening to Ostapenko was subtle but significant. Like a scientist conducting a dissection, Kasatkina patiently disrupted Ostapenko – her contact point, her feet and, along with that, her ability to win points. In 65 minutes, Kasatkina had won the title, 6-3, 6-1.
Said Ostapenko afterwards, “I'm aggressive player, and I don't think she could like be more aggressive than me, so she was trying to play defensive to change the rhythm, to play slice, to play lobs, to do kick serve, to try everything to make me uncomfortable. And normally I'm fine with that, but today I just didn't feel the ball that well.”
“I don't know even what to say,” said Kasatkina. “When I won the last ball, everything like closed and I just feel like I'm dreaming.”
For both, though, it had been a great week. Said Ostapenko, “I think I got a bit more consistent on clay, and yeah, I think I improved my serve and I'm moving better, but I still have a lot of things to work on and I think it's pretty good because then I can climb in the ranking.”
Kasatkina, of course, was elated. “I'm just enjoying it every moment, every second,” she said. “And really, when I was on the court after the last point, I just wanted the moment to stop because it was one of the best moments in my life.”