Eastbourne | Kasatkina to take on Fernandez in WTA 500 Final

Leylah Fernandez made it into her first final of the season at the Rothesay International in Eastbourne on Friday when she took down defending champion Madison Keys in the Last 4, and she will meet Daria Kasatkina, who came from a set down to upset 3rd-seeded Jasmine Paolini, in the championship match.

It's never easy to come to the tournament where you have to defend a lot of points, but I'm really happy that I was able to play good and enjoy myself on court, always finding a way to come back in the match. I'm really proud of myself. Daria Kasatkina

Both were extended to 3 sets, Fernandez dethroning the 4th-seeded Keys, 6-3 3-6 6-3, in 2 hours and 3 minutes, while Kasatkina, who fell to Keys in last year’s final, won 6 of the final 7 games to finish off Paolini in 2 hours and 16 minutes, 3-6 7-5 6-3.

Fernandez, the 2021 US Open finalist, is bidding for a 3rd career title in her 6th final, with her previous 5 coming on hard courts, while Kasatkina has lost her last 5 finals, including 3 this year, and is seeking her first title since 2022.

“Grass suits Leylah very good. Her game, she’s a very aggressive player, always trying to stay inside [the court],” Kasatkina said. “She’s in great form now, beat very good players this week.

“In the finals, everyone wants to win, so I’ll just go and try to enjoy myself, and let’s see how this final is going to turn out.”

Madison Keys rebounded in the second set but couldn't get past Leylah Fernandez in the semi-finals at Eastbourne

© Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

21-year old Fernandez, ranked 30, produced a brilliant performance to beat Keys, the World No 12 and a 2-time Eastbourne champion, in the blustery conditions.

“We’ve been working super hard the past couple of months [and] the past couple of years, so I am super happy with the results these past few weeks,” said Fernandez. “It’s good preparation for Wimbledon, but we are just going to focus on [Saturday’s] final.”

The Canadian converted her 3rd break point in the 2nd game to open up a 3-0 lead, and although Keys broke straight back for 2-3, Fernandez earned her second break to take a 4-2 lead, and eventually served out to love in the 9th game.

Keys broke early in the second, and held serve at 15 to open up a 3-0 lead, but Fernandez broke back and drew level at 3-3, only for the American to earn herself a second break to seal the set and level.

Left-handed Fernandez opened up a 3-0 lead in the decider, but had to fend off 4 break points before sealing the biggest win of her season on her 2nd match point to reach the final, her first at WTA 500 level or higher since reaching the US Open final back in 2021.

The 21-year-old Canadian now will take on last year’s runner-up Daria Kasatkina in Saturday’s final.

Daria Kasatkina had to get her frustration under control in the blustery conditions at Eastbourne but prevailed over Jasmine Paolini in 3 sets on Friday

© Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for LTA

Kasatkina, the Russian 6th seed, came from a set down to beat French Open finalist Jasmine Paolini, who was bidding to become the first Italian finalist at Eastbourne since Raffaella Reggi in 1989.

Paolini was playing her first tournament since reaching the singles and doubles finals in Paris 3 weeks ago, and the Italian powered her way into the lead, much to the frustration of Kasatkina, who shouted towards her support team on more than one occasion.

The Russian steadied herself well, though, breaking Paolini as she served to try and force a second-set tiebreak, but she quickly found herself 2-0 down in the third set.

Paolini then, inexplicably, began to struggle to control her groundstrokes, and Kasatkina capitalised to win 5 of the final 6 games and secure her place in the final.

Kasatkina saved 10 of 14 break points and broke Paolini’s serve 5 times, including in the final game of the second set.

Kasatkina had not beaten Paolini since 2019, and their overall head-to-head record is now level at 3-3. It also marked her second Top 10 win of the season.

“It’s never easy to come to the tournament where you have to defend a lot of points, but I’m really happy that I was able to play good and enjoy myself on court, always finding a way to come back in the match,” Kasatkina said afterwards. “I’m really proud of myself.”

Down but not out, Jasmine Paolini controlled much of the match but faded in the decider against Daria Kasatkina

© Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for LTA

Finding a way is exactly what Kasatkina did in a match where Paolini hit nearly twice her total of winners.

In total, the two faced a combined 29 break points, and the match saw 9 breaks of serve in total, 5 of those coming in the first set, but the first 11 games of the second set went by without a break, with a combined 6 break points swatted aside between them both.

A 17-ball rally at 0-15 in the 12th game, where quick reactions by Kasatkina helped her flick a backhand winner behind Paolini, helped the Russian secure the deciding break.

“On grass, everything can change in any moment, so I was trying to be focused on each point, and fight until the end… against a great player who’s playing incredible this year,” Kasatkina added.

The 27-year has won both her previous matches against Fernandez, but this will be the pair’s first meeting on grass.



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