By Ros Satar, in Indian Wells

  • Daria Kasatina [20] def. Venus Williams [8] 4-6 6-4 7-5
  • Final will be between Kasatkina and Naomi Osaka
INDIAN WELLS, USA – Daria Kasatkina beat her third Top 20 player in Venus Wlliams to book her spot in the BNP Paribas Open final

 

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Daria Kasatina [20] def. Venus Williams [8] 4-6 6-4 7-5

When asked after reaching the semi-final who she wanted to face, Daria Kasatkina had no interest in who her opponent would be – she just wanted to be on prime time TV at 7pm. She got her wish when she walked out to face the last American woman in the draw, Venus Williams.

With both vying for their first BNP Paribas Open final, perhaps the nerves were a little more evident with the first three games being breaks, before finally Kasatkina was the first to hold opening up a brief lead.

Venus Williams in the semi-final of the BNP Parobas Open, WTA Indian Wells

Venus Williams in the semi-final of the BNP Parobas Open, WTA Indian Wells | (c) Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

With Venus Williams showing her skills at both the baseline and at the net with her wingspan covering the court for a neat pick-up volley winner, we were being treated to a match that may have been worthy of a final.

Kasatkina was not to be outdone at the net either, dishing out a little cross-court medicine of her own, but it did not stop Williams from breaking back and by sheer force of will, the American went ahead for the first time in the match.

Williams was starting to take control of the games – any balls dropped short by Kasatkina found themselves punished as Williams broke for a chance to serve for the set. It was enough to draw more and more errors from the young Russian as her efforts to close the gap and break Williams as she served for the set came to nothing, as Kasatkina was broken, dropping her first set in the tournament.

Philippe Dehaes (her coach) pointed out that even with the dropped short balls, she had options, urging the young Russian to come to the net. His second piece of ‘good news’ was that Williams was 37, Kasatkina is 20 – and to urge her to make Williams work for the win.

Kasatkina came out with the same sense of purpose as she did in the first set, while the errors now started to come from Williams’ racquet as Kasatkina once more started the set with an immediate break and this time she took the initiative and ran for a 3-1 lead, although with tow break points for a tempting double break cushion, Williams showed you could never count her out, holding in to stay in contention.

Once again though, that advantage evaporated as Kasatkina once more sent short balls for Williams to send flying into the corners of the court, and a lame double fault brought Venus level with her again. Kasatkina battened down the hatches and did not panic, breaking back before embarking on a mammoth game where she fended off five break points in a game that lasted a little over a (lucky) 13 minutes.

Even a double-fault failed to dash that momentum as she closed out the second set, with their reputation for hard fought three setters not disappointing. Dehaes had asked Kasatkina to call him down, asking her to tell him why she had won that set:’I went for it at the important time’. He asked her to repeat it and told her to go for it.

Even though the first strike went to Williams with an early break, Kasatkina fought back converting her fourth break point to get things back on serve. Another mammoth game, this time for Williams, who edged a hold. There were chances for each to gain the advantage, but the final blow went to Kasatkina, who got the decisive break after some breathtaking tennis on tired legs for both players. She closed out her spot in the final on her second match point.

 

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‘We are coming. Very soon’

Williams acknowledged that Kasatkina had played better at the end, before batting away an assertion that losses at this stage in her career hurt a little more.

“You don’t get used to losses, ever. Anyone who gets used to losses should give up on life.”

Meanwhile Kasatkina, distracted throughout by watching the live-scores of Naomi Osaka breezing past Simona Halep, apologised in advance if she could not focus through her press conference.

She said: “It was amazing match. I mean, almost three hours. I was missing these feelings after Dubai. I didn’t play three-set matches.

“Yeah, I think from the side the match looked pretty good. From my side, it was tough, but I think for spectators it was nice to watch.

“Match like this, you’re just speechless. Even I meet my coach and my brother after the match, I was not able to say anything. I was just, like, Aaaaah, okay, that was pretty nice. Too many emotions and you cannot, like, explain everything.”

So often in the young players, they have no fear in striking the ball, but it can take time for experience and tactics to play a part. For Kasatkina, her tactics are what have now proelled her to a new career high this fortnight.

She explained: “Greatest strength? The fighting spirit, I think. Yeah, because even when I’m not playing really good, like, I don’t feel forehand or backhand, I’m still trying to reach every ball and fight for every point. So I think this is like coming from childhood.”

It will be the first time Osaka and Kasatkina will have met on the tour, but already they have carved out a name for themselves, especially in this tournamen

“That we are coming (smiling). Very soon.”

The BNP Paribas Open women’s final will take place on Sunday.

 

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