Daria Kasatkina clinched a confidence-boosting victory to start her 2018 French Open campaign as she claimed a statement win over nemesis Kaia Kanepi in the opening round, triumphing with a commanding 6-4, 6-1 scoreline. The Russian needed just an hour and nine-minutes to prevail, earning her first win over the Estonian in three tries on the main tour. It is an extremely important victory for the 14th seed as Kanepi often caused her to struggle mentally in the past, but it was an improved performance from Kasatkina as she lost just 10 points on serve throughout the encounter.
Labelled as a dark horse, Kasatkina will now look to make some noise in the last quarter which also features second seed Caroline Wozniacki, having hit 16 winners to just nine unforced errors while Kanepi fired a stunning 31 unforced errors which came alongside just 17 winners. Kasatkina was not broken throughout, winning 83 percent of her first service points.
Kasatkina claims the sole break in tight opening set
After an exchange of comfortable service holds to begin the match with, it was Kasatkina who almost made the first breakthrough in the third game. In what was the longest game of the match, Kanepi had to fend off multiple break points as Kasatkina grew increasingly passive on the crucial points, allowing the Estonian to scrape past the nervy game with a powerful forehand.
Kasatkina remained flawless on her serve as she was consistently able to find her first serves whilst Kanepi was unable to find a loophole on the return. The long-awaited maiden service break finally arrived for the Russian, who drew the first blood in the fifth game as Kanepi threw in an unfortunate double-fault down break point.
Grabbing the lead definitely helped to boost Kasatkina’s confidence and having lost only five points on her serve throughout the set, she claimed the opening set 6-4 after just 41 minutes of play. Kanepi’s low first serve percentage of 54 proved costly but it was a terrific serving performance put up by Kasatkina, who lost just three points behind her first serve and won 71 percent of her second serves. The Estonian also committed 16 unforced errors, with most of them coming at critical moments.
Kasatkina strolls to take the win
It was a nervy yet good service hold for Kanepi in the first game of the second set, as she started her comeback trail in the best possible way. However, that turned out to be the last game she will win in the match. Kasatkina’s formidable groundstrokes were extremely solid and her ability to redirect the pace was working well against the powerful Estonian.
The world number 14 was playing with controlled aggression and Kanepi’s misfired shots were coming more often than ever, firing a total of just five winners with 15 free points handed out. Vulnerable second serves were the main Achilles heel for the Estonian since Kasatkina dutifully took her chances and exploited those slow-paced and passive serves, winning 13/15 of those points in the second set.
The turning point of the set came in the fourth game when Kanepi wasted a huge opportunity after hitting a backhand wide on break point, missing out on a big chance to return on serve. Kasatkina turned the tides, rattling off six games on the trot as she clinched the impressive win after just 69 minutes of play. The 14th seed will now face Kirsten Flipkens in the second round.