Headling the Volvo Car Open today, we have an all seeded affair second on Volvo Car Stadium as the third seed and defending champion Daria Kasatkina takes on the thirteenth seed Irina-Camelia Begu for a spot in the quarterfinals. Kasatkina is the favourite to get through this match by a comfortable margin which isn’t surprising when you look at the data points surrounding this match.
After a dismal start to the year for Daria Kasatkina, she has picked up some form and is currently on quite a good run. She finished her Australian swing at the Australian Open, where she had an underwhelming second-round loss to Magda Linette. She was able to bounce back quickly as she made the semifinals of her home event, the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, in a week that saw her get a win over the then world number one Caroline Wozniacki before going down to Kristina Mladenovic. She, unfortunately, had to retire in the second set of her first-round match against Catherine Bellis at the Qatar Total Open due to a neck injury but she managed to recover quickly and had a fantastic run in the very next week to the final of the Dubai Tennis Championships with wins over Johanna Konta and Garbine Muguruza before falling to Elina Svitolina. Her good form continued as she made it the final of the BNP Paribas Open with wins over Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki again before going down to fellow rising star Naomi Osaka. She played the Miami Open the week after and was clearly hampered by fatigue in her second-round loss to Sofia Kenin. So far in Charleston, she had to fight in her second round match to get a tough 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over home favourite Christina McHale. It is had been a difficult year so far for Irina-Camelia Begu as before this week she had not got back-to-back wins in a tournament since the first week of the year. Her first event after the Australian swing was the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, where she went out to eventual champion Petra Kvitova in the second round. She would have got some confidence after getting two good wins over Bianca Andreescu and Katherine Sebov in Fed Cup to help Romania to the win over Canada but she could not carry it through as she fell in the first round of the Qatar Total Open the next week to Samantha Stosur. Her final preparation for the Sunshine Double was in Acapulco, where she fell in the second round to Veronica Cepede Royg and that kind of form showed throughout the double. She had a tough draw at the BNP Paribas Open as she went out in the second round to Karolina Pliskova but then at the Miami Open she was crushed in the opening round by Danielle Collins. It has been a better week for Begu so far in Charleston as she has got two solid wins over Georgina Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 6-4 in the first round and then over Claire Liu 6-4, 6-2 in the second round. The clear edge has to Kasatkina because she has got so many more winners over some more talented opposition.
Daria Kasatkina has only played at the Volvo Car Open twice but on both occasions, she has been quite successful. The first time she played was in 2016 and she made it to the quarterfinals then before losing to the eventual champion Sloane Stephens in an incredibly tight three-set match. The other time she played was last year and that was when she won her first WTA title as she got past a number of top quality opposition including Irina-Camelia Begu, Daria Gavrilova and the future French Open champion at that point Jelena Ostapenko. For Irina-Camelia Begu, she has played at this event three times and she has fallen at the same stage every time she has played, which is the quarterfinals. The first time she appeared was in 2015 and she fell to eventual champion Angelique Kerber, who beat her at this event again in 2016 but then last year she fell to the eventual champion Daria Kasatkina. Both women have good records in Charleston but I have to give the edge to the defending champion Kasatkina because when you return to an event you have won previously, there is always that extra bit of confidence.
Head to Head Record
Daria Kasatkina and Irina-Camelia Begu have played each other six times, with their meetings coming on hard and clay, and Kasatkina owns a great 5-1 win-loss record against Begu. The first time that they faced on a clay court was back in 2016 at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and Begu got her sole win over Kasatkina in the third round 6-1, 6-4. This was a great event for the Romanian as she got wins over a lot of top players and made it to the semifinals so I would put this one down to Begu playing some of her best tennis and when it is on fire, it’s hard to match because she can just hit through opponents. Their most recent clay meeting was last year at this very event and Kasatkina got the 6-4, 6-1 win over the tenth seed Begu in the quarterfinals. I think this would be an expected result because on the clay Kasatkina’s variety comes into great effect and Begu could be exposed due to her less-than-perfect movement to things like drop shots. Their most recent meeting was at the end of last year in the semifinals of the Kremlin Cup and Kasatkina got the 6-2, 6-3 win. I would expect Begu to win on a hard court because some of her bigger shots would be greatly rewarded but if she was that little bit off, Kasatkina would have been able to get under her skin and defend well. Due to how convincing the head to head record is, I have to give the edge in terms of match-up to Kasatkina but Begu can challenge when she is playing well.
I think that the first set is so crucial in this match because the majority of the matches between these two women have gone by in straight sets. I think that because of this Daria Kasatkina has to go in feeling good because of her record and recent form while Irina-Camelia Begu will be that bit nervous and that might elicit some passive or error-filled play from her early on. Due to this, I think that Kasatkina will come out all guns blazing as she will whip the forehand return while adding in variety and touch throughout the rally and Begu will be taken aback and start spraying some errors. I think as Kasatkina builds more and more momentum, Begu might start to overpress and eventually, the opening set will go to the Russian 6-0. I think that Begu will be able to calm herself down between sets and she will a come out in the second set a bit calmer and manage to get some good service holds in with strong serving and then attacking from there. Eventually, Begu will get nervous again towards the end and Kasatkina’s consistency and tactics will pay off to get a late break in the set and take the 6-0, 6-4 win.