At the rain-plagued Qatar Total Open, this match between Daria Kasatkina and Irina-Camelia Begu was completed over two days of action as rain halted play multiple times. It was a great start for Kasatkina on the first day of the match as she ran out to a big lead before the momentum shifted to Begu, who won six games in a row to seal up the set. An easy second set saw Kasatkina level the match but finally took her chances to close out the match despite Begu having the chance to serve for the match in the final set.
Kasatkina throws away big lead
With their last meeting at the Brisbane International where Kasatkina triumphed in straight sets, a similar result was expected by most this time round as the Russian was the favourite to get through to the second round. Kasatkina got off to a great start as she broke serve to 30 and opened up an early advantage to earn the service break. The youngster then consolidated the break with a comfortable service hold to extend her lead to two games, leading 2-0 in the opening set. The slow start for Begu continued as her service game was broken once again to allow Kasatkina to have a double break lead, affirming her lead once more.
Nevertheless, Begu finally got onto the scoreboard as she made an immediate reply, getting one of the breaks back to lessen the deficit. This was when the momentum shifted to Begu as she prevailed in a marathon 19-point game, saving three break points along the way to hold serve and prevent Kasatkina from regaining a double break lead. That service hold would prove encouraging for Begu as she saved a game point in the process to break serve and unexpectedly return level all of a sudden.
The excellent run for the Romanian continued as she took the lead in the match for the first time as she held her serve before making the next breakthrough by breaking Kasatkina’s vulnerable service game to take a 5-3 lead, having the chance to serve out the set. After saving a break point at 30-40, it was when the rain delay came into place as heavy rain started to pour down on the courts of Doha, delaying the action. After the match was postponed to the second day, Begu came back and won the first few points to seal up the first set 6-3 after 53 minutes of intense tennis.
Perfect set by Kasatkina
Kasatkina looked poised to level the match when she earned the early service break in the second set, with the Russian looking more refreshed and her groundstrokes more consistent. With Begu wanting to achieve her first win over Kasatkina on hard courts, she made a quick response as she managed to break back to return on serve, keeping hopes for a straight sets victory alive.
Nevertheless, the youngster was able to maintain her composure to regain her lead and eventually managed to get a double break lead as she broke serve once more. The final game of the second set saw Kasatkina successfully serving out the set comfortably to level the match at one set all. This set saw Kasatkina hitting 100% of first serves in, a statistic that is rarely seen on the professional circuit.
Abundance of service breaks
The start of the final set looked to be very tight in terms of the scoreline as both players looked solid on their serves, with a service break looking hard to find after they started the final set with an exchange of service holds. However, it turned out to be the exact opposite as there was a string of consecutive breaks of service, with neither of the players able to hold onto their service games. It all started at 1-1, where Kasatkina capitalized on her second break point to make the first breakthrough despite saving two game points in the process.
There were four consecutive service breaks which followed as both players were very efficient in their return games while lacking some consistency on their serves. Finally, there was a service hold as Begu maintained her composure to hold her serve for a 5-4 lead, saving two break points along the way for a rare hold of service. In a very tense game, while serving to stay in the match, Kasatkina had her first service hold in five service games to keep herself in the match. That hold of serve definitely gave Kasatkina the confidence and momentum as she broke Begu’s serve to love and earn the opportunity to serve out the match. The Russian did just so, serving out the match to love after 2 hours and 23 minutes to reach the second round.