WTA Tokyo: Angelique Kerber survives Daria Kasatkina to reach the quarterfinals

Angelique Kerber continued her good start in the Asian Swing, after a quite disappointing season on the American hard-courts. With a straight-set win, she sees off Daria Kasatkina to advance to her first WTA quarterfinal since Eastbourne. Kasatkina had previously defeated her twice this year, once in Sydney and once in Doha. With today’s win, Kerber backed up another important “revenge”, scored by defeating last year’s runner-up Naomi Osaka in the first round; the young Japanese had previously shocked defending champion Kerber in the first round of the US Open.

Kerber hadn’t played at her best, still hitting too many errors and often failing to play aggressive on her opponent’s weak second serve, nevertheless she showed the right consistency that allowed her to convert her chances and eventually take full control of the match.

Kerber hitting a backhand [Photo credit: Matt Roberts/Getty Images]

Kasatkina wastes an important lead, Kerber battles back to take the opening tie-break

As the match started, the young Russian seemed to be the one in full control of the game, while, on the other side of the net, the German struggled too much to be a real treat. After an easy hold, Kasatkina kept playing well and forced Kerber in defense to gain three break points in the following game. The German reacted and saved all the three, but then hit a double-fault and gave her opponent one more chance. Another error by Kerber threw away the game and gave the Russian an early lead. Kasatkina went ahead with a hold, and settled a 3-0 partial score.

The German reacted, and played a solid game on serve, in which she lost only one point with a double-fault. On the other hand, Kasatkina couldn’t consolidate a 40-15 lead that could have sent her 4-1 up. Instead, a forehand error and a double-fault brought the game to deuce. She wasted her advantage one more time with another double-fault, and then she hit yet another error to deliver the game into Kerber’s hands, on the first break point.

The Russian’s negative trend continued; with a series of four unforced errors, three in return of serve, she eased Kerber’s path to level up the score on 3-3.

The losing streak came to an end as Kasatkina held the following game; Kerber stayed ad solid, holding with an ace on game point. Both players managed to stay solid enough in the final games of the set, leading it into a tie-break.

As at the beginning of the match, the Russian started well, but then the German battled back to level-off the score. In the end, it’s Kerber the first to gain a set-point, thanks to a huge return-error from her opponent. Another error from the Russian sealed the tie-break and the first set in the German’s favour, with a final 7-6(5) score.

Kasatkina ready to serve [Photo credit: Matt Roberts/Getty Images]

Kerber finds better consistency, get a decisive break to sign the win

The second set started better for the German, who held to love to gain for the first time the lead in the score. Kasatkina found more struggles and wasted three chances to hold in the following game. Nevertheless, she converted the fourth, hitting a passing shot after the German failed to close a point after opening up the court.

After a quick exchange of holds, Kasatkina played aggressively to get three chances to break. Two good combinations of serve-and-forehand from Kerber saved the first ones, while a terrible return error from the Russian wasted the third. Two more errors from the 20-year-old eventually allowed the German to hold.

The missed chances seemed to affect the Russian, as she fell 15-40 down in the following game, and eventually lost it despite saving the first break point. 

Kerber claimed one more easy hold to secure a 5-2 lead. Kasatkina tried to react, holding to 15, but her opponent didn’t falter as she served out the match. On the first match point, another error from the Russian eased her task, and Kerber secured the match with a final 7-6(5), 6-3 scoreline.

Kerber hitting a forehand [Photo credit: Matt Roberts/Getty Images]

A not strong enough mentality probably affected the score for the young Russian; she converted only one break point out of seven, while the German made a good use of two out of three. Also, that game lost after having three break points weighted on Kasatkina's shoulders, causing her to lose her serve and consequentially the match. On the other hand, the German stayed solid mentally, and her more experience played a good role in allowing her to claim the match.

Nevertheless, Kerber will need to raise her level for the following match, in which she will meet fellow former number one Karolina Pliskova, which scored a rather easy 6-2, 6-1 win over Magda Linette in the second round. Against the Czech, Kerber leads the head to head with 5 wins and 3 losses, with their latest encounter happened at 2016 US Open, in which the German got the win for the title. On the other hand, Pliskova had defeated her only weeks earlier, in the Cincinnati final, and she had been more consistent throughout all the 2017 season, a statement that couldn’t be said about her opponent.