Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Badosa ousts in-form Kasatkina


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London, July 5: No sooner had Daria Kasatkina announced herself as a contender here courtesy of two opening matches for the loss of a mere three games, than Paula Badosa shouted her down in a riveting third round fight so tense that nothing ever felt certain.
A trio of bagels from the Kasatkina bakery in the opening two rounds had helped stretch the Eastbourne champion’s winning streak to seven, a career-best on grass. But in this rain-delayed tussle on No.3 Court, Kasatkina got her fingers burned.
Twelve months after a vertebra stress fracture threatened her career, Badosa needed almost three hours to cook up a 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-4 victory over the No.14 seed, to equal her best Wimbledon performance to date.
“For me this is so very special,” said the Spaniard, her voice wavering with emotion. “It’s not my first time in the second week of a Slam but it’s the most special one because a few months ago I didn’t know if I would be able to play tennis any more.
“My team have been there with me struggling so much. I appreciate every minute on court and I really feel the love from this crowd.” The match got underway two hours later than scheduled after morning rain, and Kasatkina did not benefit from the delay. In her very first service game, she conceded more points against her delivery than throughout the entirety of her second round double bagel over Britain’s Yuriko Lily Miyazaki; and within 11 minutes she had lost as many games as to both her previous opponents this week combined.
Benefiting from her read on Kasatkina’s serve, Badosa nonetheless had to save a clutch of break points against her own. Slowly she inched her way to serving for the set, only for her momentum to be halted for 10 minutes when a spectator in the stands was taken ill.
On the resumption she could not convert set point, and Kasatkina pressured her into sufficient errors to put matters back on serve. Badosa forced set points two and three, but they were saved in style.
By now the set had lasted longer than Kasatkina’s entire second round match. On it went, a stonking Badosa forehand beyond her opponent’s reach for set point four, only for Kasatkina to outlast the Spaniard once again. As both racked up more errors than winners, it took the tie-break to separate them, when Kasatkina pushed a crucial forehand wide.Yet still it felt as if anything could happen. Badosa established a potentially critical break at the start of the second, and it somehow made perfect sense that Kasatkina bit right back. (AP)


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