Very rarely you would link experience and Daria Kasatkina together in the same sentence, with the Russian herself labelling it as something “weird” as well. However, experience was the crucial factor which led Kasatkina to a tough second-round victory at the 2018 Wuhan Open. Kasatkina faced the young local rising star and recent US Open junior champion Wang Xiyu, overcoming a mid-match wobble and producing an incredible comeback in the deciding set to triumph having saved four match points in the deciding-set tiebreak.
Kasatkina claimed the one-sided first set 6-1, rattling off six consecutive games but her opponent rose to the occasion in front of the supporting crowd — fighting back for a decisive 4-1 lead in the final set. Escaping from the brink, the world number 13 managed to fend off four match points, prevailing 10-8 in the tiebreak to set up a third-round meeting with either Simona Halep or Dominika Cibulkova.
Kasatkina rolls through in the opening set
It was the best possible start for Wang, who was playing one of the biggest matches of her young career thus far. The Chinese held her serve comfortably but Kasatkina was controlling play with her controlled aggression, forcing errors from her opponent while remaining solid at the baseline.
Coming out unscathed during the majority of the baseline rallies, Kasatkina won four love games and clinched the opening set 6-1 having lost just eight points in the process. It seemed as though the Russian was on course for the straightforward victory — but it turned out to be anything other than straightforward.
Wang fights back, edges closer to the win
Kasatkina’s serves have always been a huge liability, and the powerful Wang was able to exploit those vulnerable serves. Wang finally found her footing and she was able to blow her higher-ranked opponent off the court with her thunderous groundstrokes. The consistency and power on those shots were simply unbelievable, and considering how the Chinese is only 17-years-old, she is poised for an extremely bright future.
Being overly passive, Kasatkina found herself in deep trouble as she lost the second set 3-6 which saw the crowd roar in delight for the home favourite. The young Russian was able to rebound in the final set, starting with a love break in the opening game but her younger opponent proved to be more impressive.
Wang came back roaring into contention and looked like the favourite to close out the match after jumping out to a 4-1 lead. She moved Kasatkina all around the court by dictating play and controlling the proceedings, frustrating the 13th seed with her solid and unstoppable play.
Tough comeback by Kasatkina
Just when Wang served for the match at 5-3, the nerves kicked in at 30-0. Incredible defensive skills from Kasatkina helped her to gain some momentum while Wang’s confidence took a blow — and a crucial double-fault at 30-30 gifted Kasatkina with a break point out of nowhere. 13 consecutive points were won by the Russian and she was just three points away from the win. However, that proved to be the start of yet another momentum shift.
A terrific backhand winner at an unbelievable angle allowed Wang to stop the rout, and claim four straight points for a tiebreak. Kasatkina was starting to get leaky at the baseline and soon found herself trailing by a huge deficit once again.
Just when it mattered, Kasatkina remained solid and did not take risks while the nerves kicked in for her opponent yet again. The Russian’s retrieval skills were absolutely world-class but Wang would rue the double-fault she threw in on her fourth match point. After what seemed like an eternity, the huge escape was finally completed as Wang committed yet another unforced error to conclude the match in an unfortunate way.
Special thanks to Jimmie48 Tennis Photography for his pictures from Wuhan!