Daria Kasatkina got past a stern test in the first round of the China Open as she defeated compatriot Natalia Vikhlyantseva 7-6, 6-1 after an hour and 43 minutes of play. She progressed to the second round with this win and she awaits either sixth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova or qualifier Lara Arruabarrena there.
Kasatkina jumps out to early lead
Vikhlyantseva had a slow start to the match as she sprayed out unforced errors in the opening game and gifted Kasatkina with the break to love, starting the match on the worst possible note. The higher-ranked Russian then consolidated the break with a routine service hold, extending her lead to two games. Vikhlyantseva finally got onto the scoreboard with a love service hold and looked to have slowly found the rhythm on her powerful groundstrokes which could be really inconsistent at times. However, Kasatkina looked untouchable on serve, earning yet another comfortable hold for a 3-1 lead.
Vikhlyantseva fights back
Unexpectedly, the fifth game was a pivotal moment in the set as Vikhlyantseva survived a tough service game having been pushed to deuce twice, sealing the narrow hold to lessen the deficit. The world number 31 failed to convert two game points, and saw her compatriot return level at 3-3 within a blink of an eye, returning back to square one.
It was a third successive tight game, which coincidentally also became the longest game of the match, and Vikhlyantseva was able to come up with some bullet-like serves and endure through the marathon 18-point game having saved three break points along the way. Kasatkina’s rout continued as Vikhlyantseva was full of confidence, playing at a much higher level to be just a game away from claiming the first set having won her fourth consecutive game.
Kasatkina steals the first set
Serving for the set, Vikhlyantseva fended off two break points before earning two set points of her own. However, Kasatkina was able to stay alive in the set as she played some well-controlled aggressive tennis and finished off the points at the net to break straight back, returning level on serve.
The set was then brought into a tiebreak to decide the winner, with both players being inseparable as no more than two points separated the two players throughout the tiebreak. Playing with more consistency, the higher-ranked Russian eventually clinched the first set 7-6 after an hour and eight minutes of play.
Kasatkina seals the win
Kasatkina survived an incredible game in the early stages of the second set, saving two break points in the opening game as she showed some nerves of steel to start the set on a positive note. Vikhlyantseva seemed greatly affected by her inability to convert her break points as she was immediately broken in the following game, allowing Kasatkina to lead by a set and a break. The victor looked to be decided after the world number 31 powered herself to a formidable 3-0 lead, being just three games away from the win.
The St. Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy semifinalist had to dig deep for a service hold which earned the Russian her first game of the second set, sparing herself some embarrassment. Nonetheless, Kasatkina remained focused and eventually rattled off 12 of the last 17 points to claim the win, looking very impressive having won 10 of the last 12 games.