The prolonged break to end the short 2020 tennis season hurt many players. Almost everyone suffered and some still do in these unstable times. For Daria Kasatkina, this hiatus might have come just at the right time since her career got stuck and she admittedly didn’t have too much fun on the tennis courts anymore.
Cracking under pressure
Kasatkina is still only 23 which is pretty mesmerizing, considering that she’s been a consistent member of the WTA top 100 since 2015. Until 2018, her only way was up, but after she reached the top 10 late that year, expectations were rising. The young Russian later revealed that she struggled a lot with all that increased pressure. 2019 was a year to forget as she only won consecutive matches twice all year, which ultimately saw her dropping out of the top 50.
This was also accompanied by having to face tougher opponents in early rounds, resulting in even more early losses. It was a catch-22 situation for Kasatkina and she eventually started working with a psychologist. You couldn’t tell exactly by only looking at the scores, but after the US Open, Kasatkina started to play better tennis again. I feel like her attitude has changed a bit and she’s not that tense on court anymore. There aren’t too many matches to confirm that impression yet, but looking at her social media, it becomes pretty clear that Kasatkina is smiling a lot more and I am hopeful that she’s finally playing more freely and reaching her full potential again. Sometimes it just needs a tough period to value what you have, I think a lot of us can relate to that these days.
Erratic play could lead to a surprise
Karolina Muchova is the Russian’s second round opponent in Abu Dhabi today and the 24-year-old Czech is looking to solidify her spot in the WTA top 30. Ever since reaching the quarterfinal at Wimbledon in 2019, Muchova is rated highly, not only by me, but also by the bookmakers. It took her a while, but that run finally put her in the spotlight after she wasn’t able to crack the top 100 before 2019. The potential was always there, but inconsistency prevented her from breaking out earlier.
Said inconsistency might also be an issue against a rock-solid player like Kasatkina who makes you hit an extra ball in every rally. The courts in Abu Dhabi seem to be really quick and while that doesn’t play into the hands of the Russian, her slice can become a weapon here as well. Just like her opponent, she already reached the quarterfinal at Wimbledon and I wouldn’t dismiss her simply because of court speed. The variety Kasatkina provides should cause some problems for Muchova, at least if she’s not playing at her very best, which I doubt during the first event of the season.
All things considered, I think this will be a close matchup and the odds on over 2.5 sets intrigue me. I will put half a unit on that as well as half a unit on the +3.5 games handicap and hope that Kasatkina can continue to restore her former strength.
0.5u Over 2.5 sets at 2.62 with bet365
0.5u Kasatkina +3.5 at 1.80 with bet365
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