Kasatkina routs Kerber at Indian Wells

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Daria Kasatkina kept her focus for all of 58 minutes.

That’s how long it took to dispatch former No. 1 Angelique Kerber 6-0, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday.

The 20-year-old Russian hasn’t dropped a set in four matches at Indian Wells, knocking out U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens and No. 2-ranked Caroline Wozniacki along the way.

“Maybe, yeah, from the side or with the score it looks like it was simple, but of course it’s not,” Kasatkina said. “I knew that in one moment if I will lose focus just for a second, they will come back and then the big battle, five hours again, will start.”

No chance against Kerber.

The German never managed a break point against Kasatkina’s serve. The Russian connected on 82 percent of her first serves, winning 22 of 32 first-serve points.

“This one I will try to forget as fast as possible,” Kerber said.

In the men’s quarterfinals, Borna Coric of Croatia upset No. 7 seed Kevin Anderson 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3) for his first win in four tries against the South African.

Coric next faces either No. 1 Roger Federer or Chung Hyeon of South Korea, who were to meet Thursday night.

Besides Stephens and Australian Open winner Wozniacki, Kasatkina has beaten the other current Grand Slam titleholders in the past year: French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza.

That’s part of the reason for her impressive rise in the rankings over the last three years, and she’s guaranteed to make her highest move yet as a result of her deep run in the desert. She came into the tournament at No. 19, two spots lower than her career-best. She could move to 15th or 16th, and has a shot at the top 10 if she would win the title.

But that’s more than she cared to consider, especially against Kerber.

“Actually, my head was quite empty,” she said, smiling.

Whenever she can get away, Kasatkina can be found in Barcelona. Her favorite soccer team is there, and she loves the architecture, the seaside location, and the food, with paella and tapas her top choices. And a little bit of wine, too, even though she’s not 21.

“In Europe it doesn’t matter,” she said. “With good company, of course, you can have a glass or two.”

Kasatkina will play either No. 8 seed Venus Williams or 27th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain in the semis.

Regardless of the opponent, she wants to play at night.

“I just want to be on the central court, prime time,” she said, smiling. “In the evening, something special is coming from here, from the heart.”

The other women’s semifinal is already set: No. 1 Simona Halep against Japan’s Naomi Osaka, another 20-year-old making a huge run through the draw. Osaka’s victims have included Maria Sharapova, No. 31 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 5 Karolina Pliskova.

 

Tennis star Kyrgios to fight charge on mental health grounds

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CANBERRA, Australia – Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios will apply to have an assault charge dismissed on mental health grounds, his lawyer told an Australian court on Tuesday.

Lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith appeared on behalf of Kyrgios in a court in the tennis star’s hometown of Canberra and asked for an adjournment so forensic mental health reports could be prepared.

Magistrate Glenn Theakston adjourned the case until Feb. 3, when Kyrgios’ lawyers are expected to apply to have the charge dismissed under a section of the local crimes law.

The 27-year-old Australian tennis star will appear in court in person on that date for the first time since he was charged by police by summons in July.

The law gives magistrates the power to dismiss a charge if they are satisfied an accused person is mentally impaired, and dealing with an allegation in that way would benefit the community and the defendant.

The common assault charge, which has a potential maximum sentence of two years in prison, relates to an incident in January 2021 that was reported to local police last December.

The charge reportedly relates to an incident involving his former girlfriend.

Kukulies-Smith told the court his client’s mental health history since 2015 made the application appropriate, citing a number of public statements made by Kyrgios.

In February, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense last month to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

Theakston questioned whether Kyrgios would need to appear in court for the February hearing, but Kukulies-Smith said his client wanted to attend.

Kyrgios was scheduled to play at the Japan Open later Tuesday against Tseng Chun-hsin of Taiwan.

Speaking in Tokyo before his matter returned to court, Kyrgios said it was “not difficult at all” to focus on tennis despite the pending charge.

“There’s only so much I can control and I’m taking all the steps and dealing with that off the court,” he told reporters. “I can only do what I can and I’m here in Tokyo and just trying to play some good tennis, continue that momentum and just try to do my job.”

Wimbledon champ Rybakova beats Keys in Ostrava opener

Agel Open Ostrava - Day One
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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakova came from a set down to defeat Madison Keys 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of the Agel Open on Monday.

Rybakova had lost to Keys this year at the French Open and Cincinnati.

In other first-round matches in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava, Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia defeated Zhang Shuai of China 6-3, 6-3, and local hope Petra Kvitova overcame American Bernanda Pera 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

Fresh from her second title of the year in Seoul last month, Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia knocked out former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.