The draw of the Sydney International pitted two young and talented players together in a first round match as Daria Kasatkina and Timea Babos faced off in their opening match in Sydney. The two players are not far apart in the rankings as the Russian stands at 26 while Babos is just two places behind her at number 28. The pair have not met before and it would be their first ever meeting, with Kasatkina entering the match as the favourite due to being higher-ranked and having some match experience from last week after she lost to Garbine Muguruza in the second round of the Brisbane International despite having a match point opportunity.
Babos almost managed to create the upset when she went up a set and a break but was eventually pegged back by Kasatkina who won in three sets to progress into the second round.
Babos off to great start
Kasatkina had a slow start to the match as she was unable to go against Babos’ offensive style of tennis early in the match. Whereas, Babos was focused on the match as soon as the match started as she saved a break point in the opening game to hold her service. Kasatkina would rue the missed opportunity as a leaky service game from her in the following game saw Babos take the early break of serve and have the advantage from the start of the match. Babos then affirmed her lead when she had a comfortable hold of service and extended her lead to three games. The Russian finally went on the scoreboard after an encouraging service hold. That sole break of service proved very crucial in the first set as both players were unable to find a breakthrough on their return games after both got more solid in their service games as the match progressed. After 32 minutes, Babos sealed up the set 6-3 after she managed to outpower Kasatkina with her impressive forehands which made up most of Babos’ winners.
Kasatkina fights back
The Russian’s woes continued at the start of the second set as she was once again broken in her opening service game of the second set, similar to the first set. Babos managed to consolidate the break of serve with an excellent hold of serve to love as she affirmed her lead and increased her chances of closing the match out in straight sets having a set and a break lead. Kasatkina finally managed to turn the match around after she won eight points in a row from being 1-3 down to return back level as she managed to break serve for the first time in the whole match. Babos almost had the chance to serve out the match as she held a break point opportunity at 4-4 on Kasatkina’s serve, but she wasted that chance, which Kasatkina took advantage of and eventually allowed the young Russian to hold her serve. Babos would regret over missing the break point opportunity as she showed some nerves while serving to stay in the set and eventually got broken and lost the set.
Kasatkina strolls to victory
Despite being broken in her opening service game of the set for the third straight time, Kasatkina bounced back immediately and had a service break of her own to level the final set and return on serve as soon as possible. Kasatkina almost conceded another service break in the following game but held her nerves to hold her serve and prevent Babos from leading in the final set. That missed chance would prove crucial in the next game as Kasatkina immediately broke serve in the next game to have the advantage and put herself in a good position to clinch the match. Babos’ woes continued as she was unable to take yet another break point and instead, Kasatkina held her serve to further affirm her lead. The Russian eventually closed out the final set 6-2 as Babos lost the rhythm on her serve and was just dishing out unforced errors which gifted Kasatkina the match.
Both players played an erratic match as both ended the match with a negative record on the winners to unforced errors count. Being the more passive one of both, Babos hit 38 winners but that came with 52 unforced errors, a huge amount of them. Whereas Kasatkina hit 14 winners but racked up 24 unforced errors which almost cost her at the crucial situations. Both players won 68% of points off their first service, but Kasatkina was the better of the two when it comes to the second service points won as she won 45% of them, compared to Babos’ 32%.
Next up for Kasatkina
The second round opponent for Kasatkina would be a very tough one as she is set to face world number one, Angelique Kerber, up next. The pair has met once in the past, with Kerber triumphing in a one-sided match at Montreal last year. It would be a tight affair as the world number one is recently on poor form and the Russian would definitely want to take advantage of that.