Kasatkina wins St Petersburg

Daria Kasatkina won her second tournament of the year at the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy on Sunday, becoming the first Russian to lift the title after Margarita Gasparyan retired with a back injury while trailing 6-3, 2-1.

Please forgive me for not being able to play the finals until the end. I would like to thank all the fans—thank you very much for cheering for me throughout the whole tournament. I'd like to congratulate Daria on this win. Margarita Gasparyan

Kasatkina is showing the type of form that lifted her to a 2018 year-end ranking of World No 10, having won her first title in Moscow earlier in that year.

This is her 4th career championship, the second in her last 3, following her run to the Philipp Island Trophy title in Melbourne last month, and will elevate Kasatkina from 61 to 42 this week.

“I was working a lot on everything all the aspects of my game especially in this lockdown five months we were working a lot on the steps,” Kasatkina told Tennis Now of her work with coach Carlos Martinez. “On the follow through, swings everything, especially for the serve a lot.

“I was working a lot with my psychologist on the mental part.

“Now in tennis all the small details they decide everything. So it’s very important to improve yourself in all the aspects of your game and your personality as well.”

In the first all-Russian final in St. Petersburg, after being broken for the 2nd time in the first set, Gasparyan took a 7-minute medical timeout while trailing, 1-4.

Although she continued to play, it was clear that she was struggling to stretch, while the pause didn’t slow Kasatkina’s momentum, and she easily closed out the opening set set.

The second saw the players trade 3 breaks before Gasparyan pulled the plug on the final.

“Please forgive me for not being able to play the finals until the end,” an emotional Gasparyan told the crowd afterward. “I would like to thank all the fans—thank you very much for cheering for me throughout the whole tournament. I’d like to congratulate Daria on this win.”

Despite the painful end and her first final loss in 3 title matches, the 26-year-old showed superb shotmaking in her St Petersburg campaign, and can take plenty of positives away from this week’s showing.

A wild card into the main draw, the World No 126 was playing in her first WTA 500 final, having scored wins over Kristina Mladenovic, the 2012 champion and 2017 finalist, top seed Ekaterina Alexandrova and former World No 2 Vera Zvonareva on her way to the final.

Gasparyan was the first woman with a one-handed backhand to contest a WTA 500-level final since Carla Suarez Navarro at the 2018 New Haven tournament, and she also became the lowest-ranked player to reach a WTA 500 or above final since No 153-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2019 Cincinnati.

Plus, ranked 88th in the world, Gasparyan rises 38 places in the ranking, to No 88.

6 foot tall Margarita Gasparyan was forced to retire from the final against Daria Kasatkina after sustaining a lower back injury

© Olga Maltseva/AFP via Getty Images

Kasatkina has now become the first player to claim both WTA 500 events in Russia, home soil, apparently, bringing out the best in her.

“First of all I would like to congratulate Margarita on a good performance and I wish you a speedy recovery,” Kasatkina said during the trophy ceremony. “This tournament has become so dear to me.

“I would like to hug everyone and thank you. I love St. Petersburg, hopefully I will be here next year.

“Thank you, St. Petersburg, my heart will be here forever.”

This shortened final capped an inspired run from Kasatkina, who posted her 11th victory in her last 12 matches, raising her 2021 record to an impressive 15-4.

She conquered all comers this week, snapping Danish qualifier Clara Tauson’s 13-match winning streak in her opener, and showing stubborn resolve in recovering from a set down in 3 straight comeback wins over Aliaksandra Sasnovich, second-seeded Veronika Kudermetova and two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova en route to her 2nd title on home soil.

The wild card won the toss, elected to receive and immediately applied pressure on Kasatkina, the No 8 seed, whose mix of spins and speeds has befuddled many an opponent.

In the opening game, Gasparyan showed her variety carving out a drop-shot, a smooth half volley and smash, earning break point.

Kasatkina erased it for a challenging hold, then drew successive forehand errors from the power player to break for 2-0.

Gasparyan repeatedly attacked Kasatkina’s second serve, and broke her forehand wing down to break back in the 3rd game.

When Kasatkina has time to run round her backhand to strike her topspin forehand, she can exploit angles expertly, and she spun a diagonal forehand for break point, scoring her 2nd straight break on a Gasparyan double-fault.

The World No 61 backed up the break with a firm love hold, extending her lead to 4-1.

That was when Gasparyan took her medical timeout for treatment on a lower right back issue, wincing in pain as the trainer worked on her back while lying down court-side on a towel.

Gasparyan returned to the court, eager to end the points quickly and, with the crowd willing her on, she held for the first time in the 6th game.

Unrattled, the No 8 seed cruised through a second strong hold for 5-2 and, while a sensational full-stretch running forehand from Gasparyan forced Kasatkina to serve for the set, she tested the stiff back and flexibility of her 6′ opponent with a series of off-pace slices to earn 3 set points.

Relying on her defence to extend the point, Kasatkina drew an errant backhand to take a one-set lead after just 39 minutes.

Relying on her ball-control skills against a wounded opponent, Kasatkina committed only 5 unforced errors compared to 12 for Gasparyan in the opener.

Casting concerned glances to her box between deliveries, Gasparyan sprayed a backhand long to surrender her serve at the start of the second and, after squandering a 40-love lead, double-faulted away a second straight break, she retired.

“I’m proud of how I was able to manage the pressure,” said Kasatkina. “I felt differently during this tournament and I’m really proud of that.

“My coach was telling me the best medicine is to win matches, and that’s 100% true.”

The 23-year-old’s win marks her welcome re-entry into the top-50 after the slump she suffered following her 2018 highs.

2021 St. Petersburg doubles champions Raluca Olaru & Nadiia Kichenok celebrate their doubles win in St Petersburg

Formula TX

Meanwhile, the top-seed duo of Ukraine’s Nadiia Kichenok & Raluca Olaru from Romania claimed the doubles title, defeating the American 2nd-seeded pair of Kaitlyn Christian & Sabrina Santamaria, 2-6 6-3 [10-8].



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