By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday June 2, 2021
Red clay courts were a sink hole for Daria Kasatkina this season.
A creative Kasatkina continues to craft red-clay resurgence at Roland Garros.
Kasatkina delivered ball-control brilliance mixing high, heavy topspin with slithering low slice dissecting buddy Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-2 to reach the Roland Garros third round.
The 10th-seeded Swiss, who reeled off seven straight games to start her opening-round win over 2020 semifinalist Nadia Podoroska, is the third Top-10 seed to exit Paris. Benic joins world No. 2 Naomi Osaka, who withdrew after revealing she’s been battling depression since the 2018 US Open, and seventh-ranked Bianca Andreescu, who fell in the first round, departing Paris.
Kasatkina, who had not won back-to-back matches on clay all season, advanced to a third round of a Grand Slam for the first time since she made successive quarterfinal runs at the 2018 Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Clean cut ✂️
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 2, 2021
Kasatkina credited the morning match time for maximizing the bounce of her drives off the terre battue.
“So for me it obviously is better to play the morning when the ball bouncing better,” Kasatkina said. “I think today it was very important point, because I like when the ball bounce higher, Belinda doesn’t. So I think this was the a little bit important point of this match.”
It’s been a bounce-back major for Kasatina, who snapped a streak of nine straight major appearances where she failed to survive the second round.
The 37th-ranked Russian raised her record to 20-8 on the season—already surpassing her victory total for both 2019 (12) and the pandemic-shortened 2020 season where she managed just eight match wins.
The Russian spin master showed both soft finesse and sharp court-sense during her 2018 break-through season beating four Top 13-ranked players in a row to reach the Indian Wells final where she fell to Naomi Osaka. Kasatkina finished 2018 ranked No. 10.
Then came some serving struggles, cracked confidence and a series of tough losses that saw the Russian drop to a 2019 year-end ranking of No. 69. Things got so bleak, Kasatkina, who was ranked as low as No. 75 as recently as last October, briefly considered stepping away from the sport in 2019.
Now, she’s glad she endured the low point creating a big bounce-back in Paris.
“If you’re not happy on the court, you are not going to be happy in your life, especially if you’re ambitious, I mean, if you have big goals,” Kasatkina said. “That’s what was going on with me. I was not happy being on the court.
“That’s automatically transferred to the life, to my mind. Yeah, I was starting to think like maybe I have to do something else to be happy, but that was just a bad moment, which was quite long I think. Maybe not too long and not too short. Yeah, and I have to just went through this situation and I’m happy that I had, I don’t know if it’s right to say, experience, but this background and I start to understand myself better, which is also very important.”
Sorana Cirstea takes out last year’s surprise quarterfinalist, Martina Trevisan, to reach R3 at RG for the first time wince 2014. A title in Istanbul, a final in Strasbourg – she’s been great on clay this year.
— TennisNow (@Tennis_Now) June 2, 2021
Continuing this Roland Garros run won’t be easy as Kasatkina takes on red-hot Romanian Sorana Cirstea in the third round. Cirstea, a 2009 French Open quarterfinalist, tuned up for Paris reaching the Strasbourg final and knocked off 19th-seeded Johanna Konta in round one and backed that win beating Martina Trevisan in the second round.
Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty