Jacksonville Sports Day

WTA: Muguruza Overcomes Kasatkina in Doha

Photo by Daniel Kopatsch WTA

A rollercoaster first-round clash between former Top 10 players at the Qatar Total Open saw No.11 seed Garbiñe Muguruza eventually survive qualifier Daria Kasatkina 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 in two hours and 49 minutes, the fourth-longest match of 2020 so far – having held a 5-2 lead and one match point in the second set.

The gripping contest, full of fluctuations and knife-edge games, was in keeping with the pair’s rivalry, which has been characterized by dramatic, narrowly contested tilts almost every time they have played.

Their three previous meetings all went to three sets, and twice featured escapes from match point down: in the second round of Brisbane 2017, Muguruza saved one before pulling out a 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(7) win, and the following year, in one of the most dramatic semifinals in Dubai’s history, it was Kasatkina’s turn to fend off three before triumphing 3-6, 7-6(11), 6-1.

Two years on from that, facing each other in the Middle East again, the Russian nearly repeated the feat as she essayed a remarkable comeback – but this time, Muguruza would gather herself to come out on top of an edgy decider that featured seven consecutive breaks of serve, eventually tallying 50 winners to 69 unforced errors.

“I was expecting a tough match,” stated Muguruza afterwards. “All the matches that we have played have been long and three sets and tough matches. So I was prepared for another type of match like that. I feel like I had a lot of opportunities maybe to step it up earlier, in the first set, in the second set… I think I could have played better at certain moments but the end it’s a victory and I’m happy for it.”

The 2016 Roland Garros and 2017 Wimbledon champion’s resurgence in 2020 has seen her come out on the winning side of a number of matches like this – though she said that her fundamental approach had not changed since last year.

“There’s not a different approach, I really don’t care what the score is,” she told reporters. “A victory is a victory. I’m looking forward for tough matches, I’m not trying to be worried when it gets to a third set or something like that. Last year I played a lot of three-set matches, they didn’t go my way – and this year I’m back at it again and just going more for it and being a little bit more patient. It’s nothing really different that I’m thinking… just putting the fight and this year it’s going my way.”

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