US Open: In-form Aryna Sabalenka sets face-off with Daria Kasatkina in pre-quarters

Daria Kasatkina's sudden yips against Greet Minnen didn't prevent her from advancing further in NYC

by Abbey Johnson
US Open: In-form Aryna Sabalenka sets face-off with Daria Kasatkina in pre-quarters
© Dustin Satloff/USTA

The first round-of-16 clash in the bottom half of the women’s singles draw at the 2023 US Open will be played between Daria Kasatkina and Aryna Sabalenka. Both players got through to the second week in straight sets. Of the two though, it was Sabalenka who cruised through her third-round clash.

Playing against Clara Burel, Sabalenka was at her best – or as close as she could get at this point – and secured a 6-1, 6-1 victory after 60 minutes of play. The only time in the match Sabalenka was pushed by the Frenchwoman was in the second set, in the seventh game with Sabalenka trying to serve for a 5-1 lead.

Across the match, the world no. 2 faced just one break point and it came in that game. In the end, the 25-year-old didn’t let momentum and a break slip away from her and held on to widen the gap between her and her rival.

A game later, with Burel serving for the match, Sabalenka saw through the match on the first of her three match points. There were flashes of good shot-making from Burel and she was able to force out the errors from Sabalenka in these moments.

However, each time that Sabalenka felt her game was under pressure, she tried to make reparations by directing her shots more furiously, accounting for outright winners. At times, Sabalenka also came up with brilliant drop shots to which Burel had no answers and this also helped Sabalenka keep the match under her control.

Only one unforced error separated Burel and Sabalenka. The latter had 20 unforced errors to Burel’s 19. However, the second seed finished the match with almost four times as many winners as her rival’s – 22 to the latter’s six.

Sabalenka also finished the match by converting five of the 10 break points she generated on her opponent’s serve.

US Open: Daria Kasatkina fends off Greet Minnen threat

Meanwhile, Kasatkina, Sabalenka’s rival in the next round, also looked to be heading towards a one-sided 6-3, 6-1 win against Greet Minnen.

But the Belgian, a qualifier at Flushing Meadows this year, came up with nifty resistance before the 13th seed recovered her ground again. In the end, after an hour and 28 minutes, Kasatkina finished the match in her favour, 6-3, 6-4.

Kasatkina kept on Minnen’s heels from the initial stages of the opening set but the latter kept thwarting her. Finally, Kasatkina was able to make a breakthrough as she broke past Minnen’s defences to go up a break in the eighth game of the set.

An easy consolidation in the next game saw the 26-year-old race ahead in the match. The world no. 14 maintained this intensity right up to the eighth game of the second set when she brought up the first of her four match points, on Minnen’s serve.

While Minnen saved the match point she also looked to have found her missing rhythm back. On the other side of the court, Kasatkina’s shots started misfiring and her errors led to her handing over one of the two service breaks back to her opponent.

At last, serving for the match for the second time, Kasatkina brought up two more break points but from 40-15, Minnen once again pushed the score to deuce. She also had another break point to level the set at five-all. But that’s where it ended for Minnen, as an unforced error off her backhand raised a fourth match point for the seeded player.

Kasatkina, then, finished off the match courtesy of a winner off her forehand. The US Open clash between Aryna Sabalenka and Daria Kasatkina will be the seventh time the two will be playing against each other. Sabalenka’s the one who leads the win-to-loss record, possessing a 4-2 advantage.

Earlier this year, Sabalenka defeated Kasatkina at the Cincinnati Open in the round-of-16. For Sabalenka, the match also takes more significance as she’s currently placed above Iga Swiatek in the live WTA singles rankings, as the world no. 1.

Aryna Sabalenka Daria Kasatkina Greet Minnen