World number two Angelique Kerber fell in the first step of pursuing back the top spot in the rankings as she fell for a second time to Daria Kasatkina this year at the Qatar Total Open after falling to the same opponent at the Sydney International. With Kerber still having a slow start to the new season, it would be questionable to see if she can keep up her form in this year. Kasatkina would definitely be encouraged by this win, which was her second top-five win of the year.
Kasatkina steals the tight first set
The former world number one, who was dethroned from the top spot after the conclusion of the Australian Open and is infamous for her slow starts to her matches, had a totally different start to this match as she held serve in a comfortable fashion in the opening game of the match. With Kerber’s backhand still looking very inconsistent having to go against Kasatkina’s heavy topspin forehand, the German’s forehand managed to gift her a big chance to get an early advantage as she earned three break points for a 2-0 lead.
Nevertheless, the young Russian held her nerves to save all the break points and hold her service, remaining on serve. That hold of service would prove encouraging as the confidence gained allowed Kasatkina to break serve in the next game, with Kerber playing a very sloppy game.
Having a chance to break back immediately, Kerber wasted two break points chances to go 0/5 on break points in just two return games. With a golden opportunity in hand to extend and affirm her lead, Kasatkina was overpowered by Kerber’s consistent and accurate forehand, missing those chances and failed to extend her lead.
After some exchanges of easy service hold, the German soon found herself serving to stay in the first set at 3-5. She survived this tense game as Kasatkina managed to get to deuce but was unable to earn a single set point, allowing the world number two to stay in the set for at least one more game. Saving a break point in the process, Kasatkina maintained her composure to successfully serve out the set and looked on course for an upset.
Both players started the second set playing their best tennis as the opening game concluded with 13 points, with Kerber earning a tough service hold to prevent herself from falling behind a set and a break. As the match progressed, the 2016 Australian Open and US Open champion got more solid on her groundstrokes and offense, slowly getting herself fully into the game.
Showing some form of her grand slam runs, Kerber broke serve in the next game for the first time in the match as she saved a game point along the way, earning a 2-0 lead. The good run of the German continued as she affirmed her lead as she consolidated the break of service to extend her lead to three games.
With the momentum running in her and confidence booming, Kerber looked poised to send the match into a deciding set as she claimed yet another service break despite some tough resistance from the aspiring Russian. Kerber completed the bagel victory as she strolled to the second set after just 29 minutes of play, a set where Kerber played an especially excellent game.
Kasatkina withstands comeback from Kerber
Despite having the momentum from the second set, the third set was started with a service break going to Kasatkina, with Kerber’s backhand looking very vulnerable once again. Consolidating the break of service in the following game, the Russian affirmed her lead as her smart serves helped her much. Kasatkina then looked on course for another victory over the two-time grand slam champion as she earned her third service break of the day, which she managed to consolidate to open up a 4-0 lead, making her further certain for the win.
There was the possibility that the scoreline of the second set could be replicated as the Russian earned a break point for a triple break lead and a chance to serve out the match, but Kerber came up with some incredible tennis to hold serve and get one of the breaks back, keeping her in the match and giving herself renewed hope for a win.
The German looked to make an incredible comeback as she soon found herself just 3-4 down, with only one sole break separating both of them. Games after, Kasatkina put herself in an advantageous situation to close out the match as she served for the match at 5-4. She did just so, successfully completing the job after 2 hours and 4 minutes of play.
Kasatkina enters the quarterfinals
With this win, the Russian would face Monica Puig in the quarterfinals. The article was written after the match between Kasatkina and Puig started, with the match underway until 1-2 in the third set when rain halted play to delay it into the second day of play.