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Angelique Kerber vs Daria Kasatkina WTA Eastbourne tennis live: Can Kerber level the head-to-head in first grass-court meeting?

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 27 Jun 2018
  • Angelique Kerber takes on Indian Wells finalist Daria Kasatkina in the quarterfinals of the Nature Valley International
  • Kerber vs Kasatkina is live from Eastbourne on Thursday at 5pm BST
Angelique Kerber (GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Can Angelique Kerber level her head-to-head against Daria Kasatkina as they meet for the first time on grass in the quarterfinals of the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne?

Two-time finalist Angelique Kerber continues her Eastbourne campaign as she takes on Daria Kasatkina, who has a winning record against her, in the quarterfinals of the Nature Valley International on Thursday.

Runner-up at Wimbledon during her banner year of 2016, Kerber is an excellent grass-court player who won Birmingham in 2015 and has twice made the final in Eastbourne, finishing runner-up to Tamira Paszek in 2012 and Madison Keys in 2014. 

The German got off to an unexpectedly poor start to her grass-court season last week at the Mallorca Open, when she lost in three sets to Alison Riske, the flat-hitting American who thrives on grass. The match was interrupted overnight due to darkness and Kerber lost all five games on the resumption the next day, but things have been going much better for the left-hander in Eastbourne. Opening against former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Dominika Cibulkova, Kerber won 6-3, 6-3 and went on to cruise past Indian Wells sensation Danielle Collins 6-1, 6-1 in a match that was moved to Centre Court after the sudden withdrawal of Petra Kvitova due to injury on Wednesday.

‘I’m very happy how I played today, and to win my second match on grass this year,’ Kerber said. ‘I think I was really aggressive from the first point, and it was the first time I played against [Collins], so it was not so easy when you actually don’t know the opponent so well.’

Kerber’s victory over Collins puts her into her ninth quarterfinal of what has so far been an exceptionally solid season. After her terrible year in 2017, in which Kerber signally failed to back up the gains of her superb, career-best, two-major-winning 2016, the German regrouped in superb style at the start of 2018 and went 10-1 in January, claiming the title at the Apia International Sydney and reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open before narrowly losing to Simona Halep. Kerber hasn’t managed anything so spectacular since then, but she was a semifinalist at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February and has been a quarterfinalist in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Rome and at the French Open, where she lost to Halep. Kerber has only failed to reach the last eight in two events so far in 2018, and one of them – Stuttgart – was partly the result of injury. She is currently fifth on the Road to Singapore, the standings which track the accumulation of points year-to-date, and looks set to be an extremely dangerous player once again when Wimbledon begins on Monday 2 July.

That’s for next week, however, and in the meantime Kerber’s focus will be firmly on what she needs to do in Eastbourne – and her next opponent, a difficult one for her in particular in the form of Daria Kasatkina.

Daria Kasatkina (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP) 
Kasatkina has only played ten matches on grass in her career and it’s not the surface on which she’s had the most success so far, but the young Russian continues to make strides everywhere, albeit not necessarily linear progress. Kasatkina, now 21, won her first title on the gritty green clay of Charleston at the Premier-level Volvo Car Open in April 2017 and would make her second final on indoor hard courts in Moscow at the end of the season to end the year ranked world no. 24; she comes into Eastbourne ranked world no. 14 after a bright first quarter on hard courts which saw her reach the semifinals in St Petersburg, finish runner-up in Dubai and then have her biggest breakthrough at Indian Wells, where she defeated Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams to make the final before losing to Naomi Osaka.

Kasatkina’s breakthrough run at Indian Wells was an impressive one, and she would also make the quarterfinals in Madrid (beating Garbine Muguruza) and a first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the French Open, where she beat Wozniacki before losing to Sloane Stephens. By comparison, she is ninth on the Road to Singapore.

Defeated by Lesia Tsurenko in the second round of Birmingham last week, Kasatkina returned to Eastbourne for the second time and has done considerably better than she did on her debut when she lost to Jelena Ostapenko in 2016. Starting out with a win over Alison van Uytvanck in three sets, Kasatkina went on to beat Mallorca runner-up Anastasija Sevastova 6-4, 6-4 to book herself a place in the quarterfinals of a grass-court event for the first time.

This is not great news for Kerber, who trails Kasatkina 2-3 in the head-to-head. 

‘I know [Kasatkina] very well, I’ve played a lot of times against her this year, and also the years before,’ Kerber said. ‘I know that she’s always a tricky opponent. It’s the first match that we’ll play on grass, so I think it will be a completely different match, but I’m looking forward to playing against her here in the quarters.

‘[Kasatkina] has the touch on the ball, she knows where to go and how to hit the balls," Kerber added. ‘I think that she’s a really smart player. But on grass, anything is possible.’

‘Smart’ is definitely one word with which to describe Kasatkina, who can seemingly hit every shot in the book as well as possessing a fair bit of power, as well. It’s been taking pace off the ball, however, that has worked for the Russian against Kerber in the past, exemplified by their meeting at Indian Wells in March when Kasatkina simply junk-balled and dinked Kerber to death, denying the German left-hander more than two games in that encounter. 

Can she do the same on grass? I’m not sure her topspin-heavy forehand will work as well, and Kerber’s ability to get low to the ball and her superlative movement are serious factors. You also need to be a bit more straightforwardly aggressive on grass, even against a player of Kerber’s defensive gifts, than Kasatkina is generally comfortable being. This surface is definitely Kerber’s best against a player like Kasatkina, and she’s playing well; I like the German to level the head-to-head at 3-3 and make it back to the semifinals in Eastbourne once again.

Kerber vs Kasatkina quarterfinal tennis is live from Eastbourne on Thursday at 5pm local

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Angelique Kerber vs Daria Kasatkina WTA Eastbourne tennis live: Can Kerber level the head-to-head in first grass-court meeting?

Two-time WTA Eastbourne finalist Angelique Kerber must overcome Daria Kasatkina to make it back to the semifinals: Nature Valley International tennis live from Eastbourne

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