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Kasatkina closes the door on Gauff, sets a winner-takes-all clash with Garcia for semi-final spot at WTA Finals

Daria Kasatkina eliminated Coco Gauff from contention and sent Iga Swiatek through to the semis with her victory over the American on Thursday night in Fort Worth.

Kasatkina WTA Finals 2022 Daria Kasatkina during her first round-robin match at the 2022 WTA Finals || Zuma / Panoramic

Daria Kasatkina has been a perfect front-runner on the WTA Tour in 2022. The Russian improved to 29-0 when winning the opening set this season with her 7-6 (6), 6-3 win over 18-year-old American Coco Gauff to keep her hopes alive at the WTA Finals.

Kasatkina’s victory has three big implications when it comes to the standings in the Tracy Austin Group of the WTA Finals. First, Iga Swiatek, who defeated Caroline Garcia earlier on Thursday, is guaranteed a semi-final spot. Second, Coco Gauff, who drops to 0-2 with her loss, has been eliminated. Third, Kasatkina and Garcia will square off for the other spot in the last four at the WTA Finals.

Kasatkina: “I was suprised with this statistic myself”

Kasatkina has been invincible when winning the first set in 2022, and she continued that trend on Thursday, much to her own surprise. The 25-year-old, who improved to 5-2 against top 5 players in 2022, needed to do some problem solving to get her nose in front of Gauff.

“Honestly, I don’t know. I was surprised with this statistic myself,” she said. “I know that I love to play three-set matches. I like to win the matches if I’m losing the first set.”

Kasatkina converted her third set point of a scratchy opening set that featured six breaks of serve, after rallying from 4-1 down in the set and 3-0 down in the tiebreak. Meanwhile, Gauff struggled to hit the mark with her forehand, as the Russian gradually directed more traffic in the direction of the American’s weaker wing.

“Winning the first set, I’m just becoming a bit more confident,” Kasatkina said. “The beginning of the first set is really important and just just like this having a little bit [of wind] behind my back, it’s helps me a lot.”

What did Kasatkina like most about her performance?

“That I didn’t give up, being 1-4 down in the first set and 3-0 down in the first-set tiebreak,” she said.  

Daria Kasatkina
Daria Kasatkina at Roland-Garros in 2022 (Panoramic/Chryslene Caillaud)

A first meeting between Kasatkina and Garcia

Kasatkina has never faced Garcia on tour, in a rarity for two veterans. The contest should be an interesting contrast of styles, with Kasatkina happy to stretch out points and play grinding tennis, while the Frenchwoman prefers to get on the front foot and shorten points with her high-octane game.

Kasatkina is well aware of the pressure she’ll be under against Garcia. Garcia, who defeated Gauff in her first match and fell to Swiatek 6-3, 6-2 on Thursday, has been a resurgent force on tour in 2022 – just like Kasatkina.

“Caroline, she’s super aggressive,” she said. “You can see where she’s returning any serve, she doesn’t care who she is playing, she is returning very aggressive, she’s trying to close the points as soon as possible. 

“So it’s going to be tough.”

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