SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)Daria Kasatkina fell to the ground in triumph and laid on her back for several moments after attacking a short ball off her serve and putting it away with a forehand winner on match point.
A dramatic comeback victory sealed Sunday at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, the Russian star then turned back to the big picture in her topsy-turvy world: ”I want to thank every single person who is sharing now this moment with us on this beautiful court, thank you guys,” she told the crowd at San Jose State University while accepting her trophy. ”I want to wish you, everyone, a lot of love, happiness and … peace in this world.”
The seventh-seeded Kasatkina rallied from one set down after dropping the opener in a tiebreaker and beat unseeded American Shelby Rogers for the championship, 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-2.
The 25-year-old Kasatkina immediately found her rhythm again following a frustrating tiebreaker in a first set she had led 4-2 and 5-3 before some mistakes in crucial moments, such as double faults. Now, her first title this year and fifth overall will propel her back into this week’s top-10 rankings – and No. 10 is her previous career best.
”It’s a tough journey, which is still going on. I’m happy with the way things are going, especially this season, but I don’t want to stop, because I did this mistake already one time and I don’t want to repeat it,” she said. ”I’m still hungry for the wins.”
Kasatkina, who recently came out as gay and has said she appreciates the positive support, lost here in last year’s championship. She became the first player to make consecutive finals in the event since Serena Williams in 2011-12 and earned her first title since St. Petersburg last year – snapping a two-match skid in finals, having lost last year here and at Birmingham. It also was her 200th career main draw win on tour.
”I feel great, every year better and better, I wonder what it’s going to be next year,” Kasatkina said.
Now, off to Toronto for the next tournament.
”We’re very happy because of the great job that she’s doing we have now the result here. We are super proud of Daria because she’s a great champion,” coach Carlos Martinez said, pleased with Kasatkina’s resilience after falling behind a set. ”… She’s fighting `til the end, fighting for every single ball. She’s very consistent.”
Early on, Rogers scampered all over the court to keep long baseline rallies alive before closing out points or forcing Kasatkina into an error. By the third set, she was slapping her leg in frustration and growling aloud, though she said afterward how much she appreciated the support of the crowd cheering her name and holding signs reading ”GO SHELBY!”
Rogers rallied in the first set, playing impressive comeback tennis for a second straight day. She trailed 4-2 and 5-3 before going up 6-5, then holding on to win the first set. Kasatkina double-faulted to make it 6-1 in the tiebreaker.
Kasatkina then gathered herself.
”I played really solid. I thought I picked my chances well and was aggressive when I needed to be, was patient when I needed to be,” Rogers said. ”She made me hit a lot of balls, she hits a lot of balls back, she’s one of the best movers on the tour. The wind started to pick up. She started putting a little more pace on the ball and being a little more aggressive, too, and just reset after that first set.”
Rogers defeated No. 9 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday in the semifinals – trailing Kudermetova 4-3 in the second set before breaking serve twice while winning three straight games to pull out the match.
In the earlier doubles final Sunday, fourth-seeded Chinese pair of Xu Yifan and Yang Zhaoxuan defeated the unseeded duo of Shuko Aoyama from Japan and Chan Hao-Ching of Taiwan 7-5, 6-0. They will face off in the first round this week in Toronto for an immediate rematch.
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