French Open first round preview: Daria Kasatkina vs Yanina Wickmayer

26th seed Daria Kasatkina faces a very tricky opponent in the first round of the French Open as former Top 15 player Yanina Wickmayer awaits for the Russian there. With Kasatkina just returning from a scary ankle injury which she suffered from in Rome, this match-up against the Belgian would prove to be a major obstacle.

Kasatkina has been a prominent and young figure in the Top 30 of the rankings as she managed to earn some impressive results in her first full year on the tour in 2016. Achieving a couple of incredible victories over much higher-ranked players, Kasatkina is the one to watch in the future and is now silently rising in the rankings.

Meanwhile, Wickmayer has everything going wrong for her after some controversy with the Belgian local laws which almost got her into some legal trouble, but managed to escape from any jail terms. Having fallen in the rankings in the recent years, Wickmayer now finds herself lingering in the unseeded spots of tournaments and can consider herself as one of the most dangerous floaters in the draws.

Kasatkina’s 2017 clay court results

The young Russian reached her first ever WTA final of her career and won it on her first attempt as she defeated four Top 50 players along the way to win the Premier title in Charleston, winning a Volvo car as a result. Going on a six-match winning streak, Kasatkina sealed a rubber for Russia at the Fed Cup when she defeated Maryna Zanevska in the fourth rubber but was unable to seal the deal for her country as she fell in the doubles match.

Despite losing to compatriot Elena Vesnina at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and against Roberta Vinci at the Mutua Madrid Open, Kasatkina bounced back the perfect way when she led by a set and a break against Barbora Strycova in the first round of the Internazionali BNL D’Italia, where the victory looked to be hers. However, a freak ankle injury forced her to retire from the match all of a sudden and gifted Strycova the win, with the Russian in tears and struggling to walk properly. After some posts on social media which affirmed her fans that she is recovering well and was able to play tennis after a week of recuperating, Kasatkina enters Roland Garros with renewed confidence and looks to carve a deep run in Paris.

Wickmayer’s 2017 clay court results

Yanina Wickmayer’s first match on clay this year was a loss to former Top 10 player Ekaterina Makarova in Rabat and turned her focus to ITF tournaments to gain some more match practice and match confidence by getting some wins. However, her plans backfired as she crashed out in the opening round of the tournament in Cagnes Sur Mer, a 100K tournament, to a qualifier ranked number 365 in the world. In her next tournament in Trnava where she was the top seed, Wickmayer had to battle through her first two rounds before she disappointingly fell to eventual champion and rising star Marketa Vondrousova in the quarterfinals. Returning to WTA competition in Nurnberg, Wickmayer had to survive a marathon match against Amra Sadikovic in the first round before easily falling to second seed Yulia Putintseva, being bageled in the process.

Who wins?

Yanina Wickmayer is the more offensive player in this match-up as she must aim to dictate play throughout the match to have a chance of creating the upset. The backhand is the strongest aspect of the Belgian’s game, and she would rely on that to triumph in this match. Aiming for the lines to force Kasatkina to constantly run around the court, Wickmayer’s game might backfire on her once she loses the momentum and rhythm, which she should prevent as Kasatkina would take advantage on the smallest of opportunities to breakthrough.

Daria Kasatkina’s all court game would trouble Wickmayer on a clay court, with her drop shots and slices being the most crafty part of her game. The Russian must be solid on her groundstrokes and cannot falter in the baseline rallies. Turning defense into offense, Kasatkina has to rely on her effective backhand to become the victor here. She also has to beware of her sliding on the clay courts considering she has just rolled her ankle while retrieving a drop shot in Rome.

Prediction: [26] Daria Kasatkina d. Yanina Wickmayer in three sets