Fixture: Victoria Azarenka vs Daria Kasatkina
Date: 18 September 2020
Tournament: Italian Open 2020
Round: Third Round (Round of 16)
Venue: Rome, Italy
Category: WTA Premier 5
Surface: Red clay
Prize money: €1,771,082
Match timing: 3:45 pm CEST, 7:15 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel / ESPN
Victoria Azarenka vs Daria Kasatkina preview
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus will face Russia's Daria Kasatkina on Friday, in the third round of the 2020 Italian Open in Rome.
Azarenka has been in scintillating form, to say the least, since the resumption of the tour. After 11 out of 12 matches across three weeks in New York, the 31-year-old has made a quick transition to clay without showing any signs of fatigue.
Azarenka absolutely destroyed 2020 Australian Open Champion Sofia Kenin in her second round match on Thursday. She registered a stunning 6-0, 6-0 win in just over an hour, leaving everyone short of words.
The Belarusian won almost twice as many points as Kenin in the flawless display, and will now face the talented Daria Kasatkina for a place in the quarterfinals.
Kasatkina was once touted as the future 'Queen of clay', and had even started delivering on the expectations in 2018. But in the past two years the Russian has experienced a significant downfall; she finished her 2019 season with a dismal 19-21 win-loss record on the tour.
After witnessing many ups and downs in her young yet topsy-turvy career, the 23-year-old finally seems to be finding her feet again. In her second round match, Kasatkina broke serve six times to beat Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 6-3 and book a Round of 16 berth.
Victoria Azarenka vs Daria Kasatkina head-to-head
The head-to-head between Victoria Azarenka and Daria Kasatkina currently stands at 2-0 in favor of the Belarusian. Incidentally, both of their previous face-offs were on clay.
Kasatkina managed to take a set off Azarenka in their first meeting which came at the Fed Cup in 2016. The two-time Slam champion then registered a tight straight-sets win in their Madrid 2019 clash.
Victoria Azarenka vs Daria Kasatkina prediction
Words can't do justice to Victoria Azarenka's form right now. The statistics and scorelines speak for themselves.
But as mentioned above, both the previous matches between Azarenka and Kasatkina were close affairs. The Belarusian would know better than to take Kasatkina for granted.
The Russian hasn't dropped a set yet in Rome this week, despite coming through the qualifiers. In fact, she is yet to drop more than five games in any match so far.
Even so, Kasatkina's serve still remains a major concern. In her match against Siniakova she managed to win just 62% of her first serve points despite a whopping 89% of them finding their mark. Of the five games that the Russian lost, three were on account of being broken.
Against a masterful returner like Azarenka, that could be a recipe for disaster.
Admittedly, the former World No. 10 has learnt to make do with her sub-par serve against lesser players. She often compensates for the weakness with her deft touch and variety from the ground, employing heavy forehands coupled with delicate sliced backhands and drop shots to wrong-foot her opponents.
But it remains to be seen if that play holds up against Victoria Azarenka, who will start the match as the clear favorite.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to win in straight sets.