By Jane Voigt
March 15, 2018 — Who’s the boss? Daria Kasatkina’s the boss.
The young Russian demolished two-time Grand Slam Champion and tenth seed Angelique Kerber in a lopsided quarterfinal 6-0, 6-2 in less than an hour. It was Kasatkina’s fifth win over a top ten player this year and a career ninth win over a top ten player. An improbable record for a 20-year-old woman.
“Have you ever player better?” asked an astonished Pam Shriver, on court for ESPN right after the match.
“I think no,” Daria said. “I’m improving so maybe I’ll play even better soon.”
Kasatkina could have been clutched by nerves, given the serious nature of the tournament, which is a WTA Premier Mandatory, one step below a Grand Slam. Not a chance. Kasatkina went about her day in the glaring sun of Indian Wells the way any proven, courageous and confident player would. Each set point was punctuated by an ace. Nervous, young, untested players don’t normally hit aces — cranky top-spin aces — to end sets. Additionally she did not face one break point, during the match.
“Before I went to serving I was not thinking about anything,” Kasatkina told Shriver. “Playing against the best players and learning from them [is how I get better].”
Kasatkina went up 5-0 in 17 minutes, as Kerber wracked up 11 unforced errors. The pace of the match didn’t relent.
Kerber couldn’t find the court, sending her bread-and-butter shots — down-the-line forehands and backhands — wide and long while her confidence and attitude slumped. Time after time she attempted to quickly end points, but the slow court and fleet-of-foot Kasatkina not only ran down the shots, but returned them with purpose not simply as a way to defend.
“She’s trying to raise her level, but she just can’t,” Shriver said. “She’s has to stop trying to win points early.”
“She makes a lot of variation,” Philippe Dehaes, Kasatkina’s coach told Pam Shriver in the stands during the match. “A lot of things Kerber won’t like. Don’t give her too much rhythm.”
Since hiring Wim Fissette over a year ago Kerber’s attitude during a match has improved. Yet visible signs of frustration cropped up today.
“This is the old Kerber,” Chrissie Evert said, calling the match for ESPN2. “That used to be her temperament years ago.”
The semifinal will be Kasatkina’s third in four tournaments. She’ll face Venus Williams (No. 8) or Carla Suarez Navarro (No. 27). That match is on today’s schedule, but not before 8 p.m. EST.