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St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy recap: Daria Kasatkina wins second title of 2021

Daria Kasatkina won her second title of 2021 in St. Petersburg
Daria Kasatkina won her second title of 2021 in St. Petersburg
Nurein Ahmed
ANALYST
Modified 21 Mar 2021
News

Daria Kasatkina became the first Russian winner of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, simultaneously picking up her second WTA title of 2021.

The former World No.10 led compatriot Margarita Gasparyan 6-3 2-1 in the championship match, before the wildcard was forced to retire due to a lower back injury.

The nature of the victory took the gloss out of Kasatkina's jewel, but it completed her resurgence this term. The 23-year-old is set to return to the world's top 50 for the first time in two years when the rankings are updated on Monday.

The finals in St. Petersburg guaranteed a first Russian champion in the 6-year history of the tournament.

Kasatkina's treacherous path to Sunday's match was symbolic of the struggles she has had to overcome in her quest to return to the upper riches of the sport.

After beating in-form Dane Clara Tauson in the opening round, Kasatkina's subsequent three matches followed a similar pattern: handing the initiative to her opponents and fighting back with venom.

She dropped the first set in matches against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Veronika Kudermetova and Svetlana Kuznetsova, but each time shifted through the gears to win in three sets.

And so in the final, against the surprise wildcard entrant, she was bound to feel the full wrath of the elegant one-handed backhand of Margarita Gasparyan.

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Gasparyan, who had been a real giant killer during the week as was evident in her stunning upset of top seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, was playing in the biggest final of her career.

But as fate would have it, the 26-year-old's sizzling run of form came at the expense of breaking her body again.

Gasparyan was slow off the blocks in the final, which was in contrast to her previous matches throughout the week. She was broken twice early on as Kasatkina raced into a 4-1 lead. The wildcard then took a medical timeout for what appeared to be a lower back injury.

There were spasmodic moments of brilliance coming off Gasparyan's wand, but ultimately the pain was too much to bear after dropping the opening game of the second set.

Still, it has been a positive week for the World No.126, who is guaranteed a return to the top 100.

How Kasatkina managed to turn her fortunes in 2021

Daria Kasatkina was touted as a potential future star in the women's game a few seasons ago. She signaled her arrival on the big stage in the 2018 season with a tremendous run to the finals of the BNP Paribas Open.

But over the past couple of seasons, she was unable to shake off the inconsistency cobwebs as she saw her ranking plummet considerably to as low as No.71.

2021 has sparked a major renaissance for the flamboyant Russian, whose variety and craft is a joy to watch. Under the tutelage of coach Carlos Martinez, Kasatkina is inching closer to returning to the dizzying heights of the 2018 season in which she peaked at a career-high ranking of World No.10

However, in the first quarter of the current campaign, she is the first WTA player to win two titles, backing up the success at the newly established Phillip Island Trophy in Melbourne.

Published 21 Mar 2021, 22:41 IST
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