Kasatkina charges into first major quarter-final

No.14 seed raced past No.2 seed Wozniacki with a three-game burst when play resumed on Monday.

 - Michael Beattie

Daria Kasatkina has a problem: she needs to check out of her Paris accommodation on Tuesday. Not ideal for the Russian No.14 seed, but a happy headache to have as she prepares for her first Grand Slam quarter-final.

The 21-year-old booked her spot in the last eight with an impressive 7-6(5) 6-3 victory over No.2 seed Caroline Wozniacki, producing a three-game surge when play resumed on Monday to oust the reigning Australian Open champion in style.

“It means a lot, of course – it's my first quarter-finals in the Grand Slam,” said Kasatkina, who will face another reigning Grand Slam champ, US Open winner Sloane Stephens, for a place in the semis. “I mean, but I already have to forget about it, because I'm playing already tomorrow. Yeah, already I’m starting to think about the next match.”

It was Kasatkina’s third straight-sets victory over Wozniacki in 2018, but this was new territory for the young Russian – a career first, as well as a first appearance on Court Philippe-Chatrier, no doubt a thrill for the unapologetic Rafael Nadal fan. Nerves, she admitted, were a factor.

“Not confident at all, not at all,” she said when asked about her approach to the match – originally scheduled for Court Suzanne-Lenglen before a last-minute switch to Chatrier as the light faded on Sunday. “Because of the change of the court, because of long waiting, I didn't know what to expect. So I was just trying to play the simplest game I could. In the end, it was working.”

Kasatkina, the girl’s singles champion here in 2014, had clinched a seesaw opening set that saw her surrender a 3-1 lead before bouncing back from 4-2 down in the ensuing tie-break. As dusk settled over Chatrier on Sunday, play was halted with the finish line within sight for the Russian, but she was glad officials called it quits when they did.

“I was happy to stop, because it was already dark,” she said. “I was framing a lot of balls, and I was getting really tired because the first set took a lot of energy from both of us, I think. At the end I was happy that we finished.”

It takes a healthy dose of experience to step out onto one of the sport’s grandest stages for a potential three-game shootout that could either end the match or wildly swing its momentum. Wozniacki certainly returned ready for a fight, pushing Kasatkina as the Russian served for the first game of the day.

But having fended off the former world No.1, the hugely talented No.14 seed opened her shoulders and injected some well-timed venom into her variety-laden game, twice reaching break point behind forehand winners. Wozniacki saved both with a step up in pace of her own, but was drawn into a lengthy rally on the third, eventually dragging a backhand into the tramlines to hand over a 5-3 lead.

Kasatkina finished the job on her second match point moments later, prompting a notably subdued reaction – perhaps, as she alluded to in press, her mind was already thinking about Tuesday’s quarter-final showdown with Stephens, who she beat en route to the Indian Wells final in March.

“Every time we get some experience it shows in the next matches, in the next tournaments,” Kasatkina said. “I'm happy that I am getting this experience as soon as possible. I think I'm learning pretty fast to manage this critical situation.”