Daria Kasatkina missed three match points against Roberta Vinci when they last played in Doha, eventually losing out in a third set tiebreak. Six months on, Kasatkina will get another shot against Vinci in the third round of the Rogers Cup in Montreal on Thursday.
Kasatkina enjoyed an excellent win over the number 13 seed, Sam Stosur in the second round of Montreal. The Russian player came from a break down in both sets to prevail, 7-6(1) 6-3 in one hour and 41 minutes. In a topsy-turvy opening set, Kasatkina missed out on three break points at 4-4 0-40, the third of those with Stosur just clipping the line with a second serve. Kasatkina didn’t drop her head, holding at *4-5 and then breaking to go up *6-5. While she was unable to serve out the set, still a weak point in Kasatkina’s game, she reset to win the first set tiebreak. In truth, she had a lot of help from Stosur who made a river of unforced errors. Some of the misses from the Aussie player were really close…
Kasatkina recovered an early break in the second set and then prevailed in a five-deuce game to break to lead 7-6 *5-3. There was one crazy point where it looked like Kasatkina was playing French Cricket with a defensive block on the baseline… she even won the point! Serving for sets and matches is always a struggle as the Russian player has the tendency to get nervous and passive. She was forced to save a break point, but Kasatkina served out the match at the first time of asking.
Vinci came from a set down to beat her compatriot, Camila Giorgi, 2-6 6-3 6-4 on Wednesday. Last year’s US Open finalist opened the match with one of the shots of the days, showing remarkable defence before floating a passing shot winner past Giorgi. However, she came up second best early on against a reasonably accurate, Giorgi. Vinci won just four points behind her serve in the first set.
The world number eight, Vinci responded well in the second set; in the first set she was just reacting to Giorgi’s power and depth, often going long with little time to prepare, but she was more forceful as she attempted to stay up on the baseline. Vinci quickly went up 4-0; she failed to serve out the second set at *5-2 but broke in the very next game. There was an improvement from Vinci, but the turnaround felt mostly Giorgi inspired as the errors came thick and fast, many on return.
From failing to hold her serve once in the first set, Vinci held all five service games in the decider! It was actually a high quality set and Giorgi looked to be on top of things, playing some sparkling points. However serving with scoreboard pressure at *4-5, Giorgi buckled; a double fault, one of 12 during the match, was sandwiched between two errors as Vinci survived the onslaught to secure an encouraging first victory in Montreal.
Head-to-head record: As allluded to above, Vinci beat Kasatkina in their only previous match in Doha, 2-6 6-4 7-6(3). Kasatkina missed three match points, having a minor meltdown, before saving four match points herself to force a third set tiebreak where Vinci was too strong in the end.
Interesting stat: Kasatkina’s win over Stosur was the fourth top 20 win of her career so far. For Vinci, she will seeking to reach her fourth quarter-final at the Rogers Cup.
Final thoughts: I’m really looking forward to this match as their last encounter in Doha was one of my favourite matches of the year so far. In my opinion, Vinci and Kasatkina both have such watchable games and their variety is a breath of fresh air on the WTA tour. I’ve enjoyed seeing more of Vinci in press this year and getting to know her awesome personality, while the emergence of Kasatkina has been one of my favourite things about 2016.
This will be a fascinating match and a solid indicator to see how far Kasatkina has come this year. The match in Doha was one of a handful this year where Kasatkina has had a higher ranked opponent on the ropes but hasn’t been able to get the win (Stephens in Charleston and V.Williams in Wimbledon spring to mind). Vinci’s form isn’t at the same level from six months ago but the win over Giorgi was decent, particularly against an opponent who plays so fast and takes the time away. Vinci has played her best tennis in 2016 on hard courts.
So can Kasatkina get across the finish line this time round? With the way she has been steadily progressing throughout 2016, i’m more inclined to say yes…