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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday June 2, 2021

 
Daria Kasatkina

Daria Kasatkina is on the cusp of a breakthrough in Paris after upsetting Belinda Bencic on Day 4.

Photo Source: Getty

Daria Kasatkina has had a rough-and-tumble two years. After breaking out and reaching back to back quarterfinals at Roland-Garros and Wimbledon in 2018, the Russian struggled to meet expectations in 2019 and 2020.

Tennis Express

So talented, creative and clever on a tennis court, Kasatkina is a tennis purist’s dream. She plays the game like fans wish they could—spontaneous, athletic, with a powerful forehand and a delightful jumping backhand to complement her steady open-stance two-hander.

But things really went off the rails for the Russian after she reached the Top 10 in October of 2018. But the end of 2020, she was outside of the Top 70 and struggling with the widening gap between her ambitions and her reality.

“A lot [has] changed between this time, 2018 and now,” Kasatkina said after defeating tenth-seeded Belinda Bencic in straight sets on Wednesday to reach the third round. “There was one amazing year for me, which was important as well in a good and in the bad way. I learned a lot, and I think I become a little bit different, maybe more experienced, a bit more serious. Let's say I understand more why I'm winning or why I'm losing.

“Yeah, getting maybe a bit more mature.”

In a candid interview with a Russian website earlier this year, Kasatkina opened up about her struggles, calling it a “dark and hardcore” period in her life.

For a while she was so unhappy, thoughts of leaving the sport crept into her mind.

“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,” she said when asked about the interview during her press conference in Paris on Wednesday. “That's what was going on with me. I was not happy being on the court. That automatically transferred to the life, to my mind. 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.”

Today she is at peace, and it shows in her tennis. She notched her 20th win of the season on Wednesday, dropping just four games to the World No.10. It hasn’t been a perfect season on the clay, with Kasatkina winning just five of nine matches, but she has a good chance to reach the round of 16, with a matchup with Romania’s Sorana Cirstea looming.

She defeated Cirstea in straight sets in Madrid in their only previous meeting, in 2018.

With no seeds standing between Kasatkina and the quarterfinals, a big opportunity is waiting for all players in her section of the draw. Kasatkina says the experience of being a former quarterfinalist in Paris can only help.

“The thing that I already went far, one or two Grand Slams for sure would help me, because it's experience and it's always new to face these kind of matches like quarterfinals and further,” she said. “So in case that I go that far, which will be amazing always, I think for sure this experience would help me. But as I say, I have a third-round match after tomorrow, and that's my main goal for the moment.”

 

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