After a 2016 full of personal satisfactions, Daria Kasatkina was surely expected to do even better in 2017, with more experience achieved on tour. She kept up with the expectations by clinching her maiden title after finally reaching her very first final at a WTA level - continuing the trend that saw her winning every final she had played at ITF level - but she still struggled with consistency, ending up with early losses where she was expected to advance to deep runs.
Kasatkina barely holds a positive record in 2017, with 16 wins and 13 losses overall. In seven tournaments, she went out in the opening round.
The clay season is always the best for Kasatkina’s game style, and the one in which she achieved the best results of her career. In 2017, it started very well for her, as she performed a deep run at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, reaching an all-teen final against Jelena Ostapenko. Kasatkina didn’t find trouble in defeating her opponent in a one-sided final, maybe helped by a performance described as “one of her worst matches [in Charleston]” by the later French Open champion.
In Paris, she confirmed her third round run from the previous year, but she could nothing against eventual finalist Simona Halep.
Kasatkina achieved good runs also at the start of the hard-court season, with a quarterfinal reached in Sydney, and another quarterfinal in Doha, both at Premier level.
After her first title, Kasatkina faced a rather disappointing rest of the season on clay, failing to back her Charleston run with more good results. She suffered early losses in both Stuttgart and Madrid, and an ankle injury forced her to retire mid-match during her first round in Rome.
Prior to Charleston, she fell into a 4 matches losing streak, failing to win a single match between Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami.
On grass, Kasatkina has yet to achieve a good result. She missed all the warm-up tournaments before Wimbledon due to the ankle injury suffered in Rome; at the Championships, she surrendered in the second round to Annet Kontaveit.
The first part of the season started with a big achievement from Kasatkina, that earned her first ever win over a world number one by defeating Angelique Kerber in Sydney.
She faced Kerber one more time in Doha, and once again defeated her, this time in three sets.
During her run to the title in Charleston, she achieved important wins against doubles partner Daria Gavrilova, and two more good clay-court players, Irina-Camelia Begu and Laura Siegemund.
Kasatkina suffered a first round loss at the Australian Open, falling to Peng Shuai in straight sets. In St.Petersburg, she eased past Belinda Bencic, but then lost to number 115 Natalia Vikhlyantseva.
Her losses in Indian Wells and Miami happened both with players outside the top 50, against Krystina Pliskova and Shelby Rogers respectively.
Her probably most disappointing results had been the early losses in clay tournaments; in Stuttgart to former doubles partner Elena Vesnina, and in Madrid to Roberta Vinci.
In Rome, she was up a set against Barbora Strycova, but a fell during the second set forced her to retire.
After ending 2016 ranked 26th (close to her best ranking of 24), Kasatkina will need to find more consistency, even if she doesn’t have too many points to defend before the end of the year.
She will have two quarterfinals to defend from last season, the most tricky one at the Rogers Cup - a Premier 5 tournament - and the second one in Moscow. Since she hadn’t won any matches in the American swing in 2016, that could become a good chance to collect important ranking points.
Midseason grade: C +
Winning her first title had surely been a big achievement for the young Russian, but the lack of consistency showed during the rest of the season, and the unlucky injury that affected her late tournaments, had surely prevented her from achieving more important results, that were surely within her reach.