|photo by Daniel Ward|
It was the first night match of the 2018 Volvo Car Open, and defending champion Daria Kasatkina had to try out her clay court legs for the first time this season on the event's main court (specifically, the Billie Jean King court), with the crowd cheering enthusiastically for her opponent. That opponent, USA player Christina McHale, came close to sending Kasatkina home.
The Russian's game is generally one of craft and strategy, and includes her signature drop shot. But not tonight. Almost until the end, the opponents stayed on the baseline and traded groundstrokes--sometimes a lot of groundstrokes--and Kasatkina's errors made her increasingly vulnerable as the two hour and sixteen-minute match wore on. Kasatkina also had problems with her second serve, and--quite obviously to anyone who paid attention to her body language--her mentality.
Kasatkina won the first set 6-3, though she had trailed during much of it. She had little momentum going into the second, which McHale took 6-3. Finally, though, she took control of a match that had often been dictated by her opponent. The change in Kasatkina's attitude and confidence was as dramatic in its rehabilitation as it had been in its collapse. She won the final set 6-2, breaking McHale at love in the last game.
|photos by Daniel Ward|
It was, at times, painful to watch the Russian star as she wilted, then became angry with herself. But in the end, she did what the truly superior players do: She found a way to win.
Next for Kasatkina will be qualifier Claire Liu.
Also today, 2010 champion Sam Stosur was defeated by Kristie Ahn in straight sets, and top seed Caroline Garcia defeated Varvara Lepchenko in straight sets. Garcia will face either Polona Hercog or Alize Cornet in the second round.