Battle of the Faves: Simona vs Daria

Daria Kasatkina took on Simona Halep in the second round of the Miami Open. Simona is my second favorite WTA player. Daria, although a new favorite of mine, is my fourth favorite I would say. It was tough when I saw the draw that they would be slated to meet in just the second round. Both these players made the quarterfinals of Indian Wells, so this was not worthy of such an early round consdering form. Since Daria had been in such good form I knew she’d probably beat Bondarenko and they’d probably meet. Sure enough, they did. 

I mainly just tried to enjoy the match as much as I could without trying to root for anyone. I just wanted to see both play well and it be competitive. Before the match I said I’d be happy with a couple 6-4 sets. I was kind of disappointed in what actually transpired in the match. 

Let’s start with Simona. She played brilliantly at times. Hitting amazing winners, one of which was a beautiful jumping backhand winner. I also was extremely impressed with her footwork. She seemed to take the ball at the perfect height just about every time. Taking a few steps in or backwards when it called for it. She did well playing percentage tennis with her shots at times as well. She showed her form is close to her best. The problem is she didn’t play each point well enough. She hit quite a few second shot errors and had trouble closing out the match. Up 5-2, Simona proceeded to lose the next three games after calling coach Darren Cahill on court. I’d have liked to see her play better and close the match well for me to feel better with her game. I don’t think Daria did much to trouble her. It seemed the match was on Simona’s terms for most of it, so it’s troubling to see Simona struggle when she was in control.

Since Simona was leading for most of the match, I found myself hoping Daria would play better and win a few more games. I focused a lot more on Daria for a few reasons. I haven’t seen her play as much as Simona so I’m trying to determine how she plays in different situations and what her strengths and weaknesses of her game are. As Simona was in control, I kept trying to figure out what it was. I thought for one Daria wasn’t playing aggressive enough. She didn’t seem to try to hit through her shots. When she would go for her shots, it was from bad positions, so she’d commit an error. It seemed to me her feet weren’t moving well. She wouldn’t get out of the way of the ball well enough and didn’t seem to anticipate Simona’s shots well. Part of that was Simona was trying to hit behind her, but she just seemed a bit slow. One of the things I liked about watching Daria in Indian Wells was I thought she did well not giving up ground. If she had to go backwards to play a shot, she’d take a few steps in afterwards to get right back up on that baseline. She did the same today when she could, but it seemed like it may’ve been to her disadvantage. Since Simona was hitting through the ball, coming back up to the baseline didn’t give her enough time to come up with a good shot and would cause an error. I like Daria’s forehand a lot, but today I questioned if the stroke was a bit exaggerated. Does she need a little extra time to hit it properly and effectively? Especially when she plays aggressive hitting top players. Not sure, but it may be something to pay attention to if she struggles against high opposition in the future. 

It was tough trying to figure out what it was that was causing Daria so much trouble. I finally rewound a point I thought she played poorly to see what it was. I discovered the ball she hit was short, which allowed Simona to step in and hit to the open court to force an error. Afterwards I thought she was hitting too short on a lot of shots. Simona actually could’ve and should’ve taken more advantage of this. I’m not sure if wind was a problem for Daria. It was fairly windy, so it definitely could’ve altered the way she played and hit her shots. Perhaps it was nerves too playing against such a good player, on a center court for a night match. One of the bigger stages she’s been on. Most of this is just speculation. I just didn’t think this was a great match Daria played and I’m trying to figure out why. At least this will serve as a great learning experience for her.

Simona ended up winning 6-3, 7-5. I guess I should be happy because, as I stated earlier, I said I’d have been happy with a 6-4, 6-4 scoreline. I mean Daria at least won 8 games like I wanted. I just didn’t feel the quality was sustained by either for very long. As I’ve said, I believe Daria didn’t play up to her potential. She still made it close against Simona. That’s not good for Simona to allow a player to play poorly and still get in a close match against her. Simona just had trouble closing. She did have a substantial lead being up 6-3, 5-2. I’d have liked to see her finish strongly though. Maybe Simona was just being nice to allow me to see her and Daria on court a little longer and that three game stretch wasn’t really telling at all of where her game is at. I’d like to think that, but it’s not the case.

Simona will have to solve this issue of closing matches. It cost her against Elena Vesnina earlier in the year. Overall though Simona seems to have improved her game substantially since she’s come to the USA. Hopefully that continues. She has a good draw in Miami, as she won’t be due to face a seed until the quarterfinals. Her next opponent is Julia Goerges, a big hitting German. That could be troublesome if Julia plays well, but I believe Simona will have the defense and hit enough aggressive shots to win her that match. 

It’s been a terrific beginning of the year for Daria. When she’s lost this year, it always to top opposition and players ranked ahead of her. That’s a very good sign going forward. Now it’s clay season for her, which is her best surface. She won quite a few ITF’s last year and her game seems well suited for the surface with her forehand and serve. She’ll probably even be ranked for Roland Garros at the rate she’s going so far this year. I mean, with all the success she’s already had this year to then go to your favorite surface, you’d think she’d just get better and better. I remember thinking the same of Simona last year though and that didn’t end up coming to fruition.

Hope you enjoyed my thoughts on the match. If you noticed anything else, during the match, regarding either player, feel free to comment. I’d love to hear any other analysis anyone has to offer 🙂


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