The all-Russian affair in the opening round of the Kremlin Cup saw youngster Daria Kasatkina go up against the experienced Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Kasatkina was able to play some of her best tennis and triumphed over the current world number 18, who was visibly fatigued having just won the title in Hong Kong with a tough win over Daria Gavrilova.
Kasatkina takes the early lead
It was a relatively tight start to the match with both players looking to hold onto their service games. Kasatkina displayed some great movement and her variety of shots while Pavlyuchenkova’s aggressiveness worked well early on. However, the more experienced of the two Russians started to falter as the fatigue started to kick in, having just flew into Moscow yesterday after winning the title in Hong Kong less than 48 hours ago. Pavlyuchenkova missed a game point in the fourth game and she started to completely misfire, losing all the rhythm.
Pavlyuchenkova mounts incredible comeback
Kasatkina took advantage of her unforced errors and edged ahead in the opening set but faced some tough challenges in the following game as Pavlyuchenkova earned two break points and threatened to produce an immediate reply. Nonetheless, the youngster was able to play some of her best tennis and consolidated the break with a narrow service hold for a commanding 4-1 lead.
Kasatkina looked to extend her lead when she went up 0-30 in the next game, but a sudden rush of adrenaline got into Pavlyuchenkova, rattling off eight of the next nine points to return on serve, coming out of nowhere to do so.
Kasatkina rebounds to seal the first set
The set then went on serve before Pavlyuchenkova took the lead for the first time in the match and earned the golden opportunity to serve out the first set at 6-5. However, an on-court coaching session came timely for Kasatkina as she was told by her coach to try and move her opponent around the court, using her smart shot selection to do so.
The tactics proved to be effective as she broke straight back with Pavlyuchenkova being two points away from winning the set, before rattling off six consecutive points from 0-1 down in the tiebreak to own five set points. Not disappointing her fans, Kasatkina ultimately closed out the first set 7-6 (2) after 57 minutes of play.
Tight start to the second set
Pavlyuchenkova had a confidence-boosting start to the second set as she survived the incoming onslaught from her younger counterpart, sealing the game with an impressive volley. She also had her chances on the return, but Kasatkina came from 0-30 down to level the scores with her great hands at the net.
Kasatkina gets the win
The match seemed to be in Kasatkina’s favour after Pavlyuchenkova went down a break in the second set, with her emotions getting over her. The Hong Kong champion was simply unable to find the rhythm on her groundstrokes, and was getting impatient against the defensive Kasatkina, forcing her to commit a handful of errors.
An on-court coaching session did not seem to help as Pavlyuchenkova continued to be affected mentally by her errors, and Kasatkina was just unstoppable with her game firing on all cylinders. The match was stopped momentarily at 3-1 as the net was broken, and that pause was of utmost importance to Pavlyuchenkova.
Many thought that she would be able to regain her composure and mount a comeback, but instead she fell behind even further as she was unable to match up to Kasatkina in terms of speed and variety. Eventually, Kasatkina comfortably sealed the win with her sixth consecutive game won, taking the victory after an hour and 34 minutes of play.