Kasatkina & Siegemund Into Semifinal in Charleston

By Jane Voigt

Daniel Island, S.C., April 7, 2017 — If it were a matter of attitude, the winners of the first two quarterfinal matches today could have been picked before a ball was hit. Yet we all know the struggle lies between the lines.

Dasha

Daria Kasatkina of Russia moved into her first career semifinal at Volvo Car Open today. Photo credit Leslie Billman tennisclix.com.

Struggle, though, was hardly a word to describe Daria Kasatkina’s win over tenth-seed Irina-Camilla Begu, 6-4, 6-1. The 19-year-old Russia was far-more steady, patient and upbeat on Billy Jean Stadium. She played a clean match with winners outweighing unforced errors by almost two to one (19-10). 

“I was a little nervous with being in the quarterfinals and with the wind,” Kasatkina told Tennis Channel, after the match. “But, I did well I think.”

Laura Siegemund has been a force all week at Volvo Car Open. She continued her run with a quick victory over Latvian and 26th seed, Anastasija Sevastova, 6-2, 6-4. 

“It was difficult conditions again today,” Siegemund began. “Not as windy as yesterday, but still very, very windy. I think I came out strong, which I planned to do. I was happy with my performance after many close situations."

The wins by Kasatkina and Siegemund marked their first semifinal runs in Charleston; they face each other tomorrow. 

In prior rounds Kasatkina ousted two seeds: Daria Gavrilova (No. 9) and Begu. Siegemund ousted Venus Williams (No.3), Lucie Safarova (No. 15) and Sevastova.

Laura

Laura Siegemund faces Kasatkina tomorrow in one semifinal. Photo credit Leslie Billman tennisclix.com.

With her bouncy pony tail, leaping backhands and unconventional backhand, Kasatkina's move to the semifinal in just her second appearance in Charleston thrilled fans. 

“She gets to a lot of balls,” one fan said to his friend, after scrambling to the net for a feathered cross-court volley winner.   

Last year, Kasatkina lost at this stage to eventual champion, Sloane Stephens, having held match points on the American. But, today, Kasatkina was determined.

“It was a tough beginning,” she began. “She started well. I was a little bit frozen on the court, bad moving, pushing the ball. But then it came back. From the moment I won my first game, everything was going well."

Begu

Irina-Camelia Begu has now lost in the quarterfinals for two consecutive years. Photo credit Leslie Billman tennisclix.com

And although she had a winning record over Begu, Daria had never beaten the Romanian on clay. Therefore the victory on Charleston's green clay evened the score, in a manner of speaking. Begu beat Kasatkina in Rome last year, a Premier event on red clay. No doubt there’s a marked difference in the two surfaces, but patience and precision predominate tactics on both. 

“When you go from the hard court to the red clay it’s good to play a little on the green clay because [it’s] in the middle,” Daria said. “It’s not the clay in Europe and it’s not the hard any more. You can slide, you can spin and still, it’s similar to red clay. So, it’s very good that we have this tournament."

Kasatkina is one of the bright new stars rising on the WTA horizon. She ended 2015 ranked No. 72 and 2016 ranked No. 27. She played her first main draw as a wildcard in Moscow, 2014. Last spring she earned a seeded berth at Roland Garros, her first at her favorite tournament.  

Kasatkina and Siegemund met once in St. Petersburg, 2016. But all bets are off on green clay. Gone are the true bounces. Gone are the safe indoor conditions. 

Sevastova

Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia. She is one of two Latvians in the final eight. Photo credit Leslie Billman tennisclix.com

“Here, the conditions, you never know because of the wind,” Kasatkina began. “I don’t think she changed much in her game since last year. But, I have to play my game.”

Kasatkina’s game has evolved over the year, heeding advice from Coach Vladimir Platenik.

“A few months ago I wouldn’t answer this question because I was not sure,” she said. “Now I can say that my game is playing with spin and slowly move inside the court. Before I was a defensive player. Now, I’m trying to play more aggressive because women’s tennis is moving this way. I have to adapt.”

Ironically, Kasatkina was well aware of her need to adjust her style of tennis last year. “If you don’t make that adjustment, they’re going to kill me at the high level,” she told the press then. 

If Siegemund runs, slides and drops shots Kasatkina as well as she has against prior opponents this week, the Russian will have her hands full. Siegemund has Volvo Car Open champion written all over her game. She stumbled and fell behind today, as she had against Williams, but revised her attitude, tactics and belief. 

“My coach is with me,” Siegemund said yesterday, after defeating Safarova. “That really helps me a lot. I’ve had good preparation. I had good matches that gave me confidence. All that makes me play well here.”

The drop shot has become a signature move from Siegemund. It unhinges opponents, throwing a wrench in their momentum. 

“And, the drop shot, of course, is always a weapon,” she said. 

An added pressure point for both players, as they eye tomorrow’s match, will be letting go of past results and facing the situation in front of them.

“Yeah, that’s exactly true,” Siegemund began, reflecting on the day after her win over Venus Williams. “There was so much going on with the hype and all that. I enjoyed it. I loved getting messages from home. But, I was like, wait a minute. I was already in the next match. It’s another piece of work. Next match is not going to be handed to you. You will have to be ready to play the tough points, the tough situations. So, I really try to prepare mentally.”

But Laura isn’t always about future encounters. She told her coach ‘let’s enjoy this win,’ after her victory today over Sevastova.

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013