Kasatkina Wins First Grass-Court Title At Eastbourne

Daria Kasatkina (photo: Tom Dulat/Getty Images for LTA)

EASTBOURNE/WASHINGTON, June 29, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

A first-time champion was crowned at the WTA 500 Rothesay International in Eastbourne, on the southeast coast of England, Saturday afternoon. Her name is Daria Kasatkina, the popular 14th-ranked player from Russia, who defeated No. 30 Leylah Fernandez of Canada, 6-3, 6-4, in one hour and 50 minutes on Devonshire Park’s Centre Court to collect her seventh career title and first on grass.

Kasatkina, 27, won her first WTA Tour title of the season after appearing in her second straight Eastbourne final. Now, she’s won her first career grass-court final in her third attempt, improving to 6-1 on grass this season and 33-17 lifetime. Kasatkina received her champion’s trophy from 11-time Eastbourne champion and Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova.

“It’s been a year, but it feels like it’s been a few days since last year when I was standing here,” the sixth-seeded Kasatkina said in her trophy ceremony remarks. She lost the 2023 Eastbourne final to Madison Keys. “I want to congratulate Leylah for the great week here. It was a very tough battle today. I hope for many more to come between us on the big stages.”

Against Fernandez, Kasatkina used her all-court game to win her 26th match of the season. She hit 18 winners to 19 unforced errors, converted five of 10 break points and outpointed Fernandez 83-69. The 21-year-old Canadian struck 35 winners but was undone by 39 unforced errors in suffering her 14th defeat of the season. She broke Kasatkina’s serve twice in seven tries but it wasn’t enough to win her first tour-level final of 2024.

In their third career meeting, Kasatkina won the 55-minute opening set 6-3 after Fernandez committed her second double fault on set point. Earlier, up a break at 3-2, Kasatkina proved her mettle by fighting off a couple of early break points from the pesky Fernandez – and later a third one – during an 11 deuce, 28-point sixth game just to hold serve. The crafty Russian, who outpointed Fernandez 44-37, hit just nine winners but benefited from 22 unforced errors by the Canadian lefty.

Then, Kasatkina jumped out to 3-0 lead to begin the second set, thanks to her creative shot making. However, Fernandez worked her way back into the title match by breaking her opponent in the fifth game and consolidating for 3-all. Next, Fernandez took advantage of a double fault by Kasatkina (her fourth) to break and go ahead for the first time in the final at 4-3. While there was no quit from Fernandez, it would still be an uphill climb for her to win her first grass-court title, playing in her first Eastbourne final.

Kasatkina immediately broke back at love for 4-all, then saved a break point and countered with an important hold for 5-4 to put herself to within a game of winning her first title of 2024 after losing in the finals of Adelaide, Abu Dhabi and Charleston earlier in the season.

With Fernandez serving to stay in the championship, she quickly fell behind 0-40. Finally, Kasatkina broke at love after Fernandez hit a seventh-shot forehand wide on match point. It was Kasatkina’s first title win since 2022 at Granby, and she improved to 3-0 lifetime against Fernandez.

Fernandez offered her congratulations to Kasatkina and her team. “You guys did a great an amazing job this week. Hopefully, we have many more tough matches like this,” she said.

En route to the Eastbourne crown, Kasatkina garnered wins against she notched Wang Xinyu and Yuan Yue, both from China; Emma Raducanu of Great Britain in the quarterfinals, No. 7 Jasmine Paolini in the semifinals and Fernandez in the title match.

Now, it’s off to Wimbledon for Kasatkina, where she will be seeded 14th and face Zhang Shuai of China in the first round on Monday. As for Fernandez, who fell to 6-2 on grass this season, she will be seeded 30th at Wimbledon and oppose Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti in the first round on Tuesday.

Ostapenko and Kichenok win second doubles title of season

Unseeded Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine upset No. 1 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand, 5-7, 7-6 (2), 10-8, in an hour and 54 minutes to win the Rothesay International women’s doubles title Saturday evening.

The title was the second of the 2024 season for Ostapenko, 27, and Kichenok, 31, following their success at Adelaide in January and fourth crown overall. In Eastbourne, the Latvian/Ukrainian duo dropped just one set and the final was the only time they were pushed to a match tie-break.