French Open 2017 WTA Round 3 Preview: Daria Kasatkina vs Simona Halep

French Open title favourite Simona Halep has a tough third round opponent in the form of Charleston champion Daria Kasatkina.

(26) Daria Kasatkina [No.28] vs (3) Simona Halep [No.4]

Overview: Simona Halep’s 2017 season is somewhat the same as her 2016, just that it’s becoming better and better. After a first round loss in the Australian Open (she did it in 2016 too), Simona withdrew from St.Petersburg, Doha and Dubai and returned to Indian Wells, losing to Kristina Mladenovic. Much like last year, her season’s revival started in Miami, reaching the quarterfinals once again. There, the transition to clay was so smooth for Halep, sporting a 16-2 record on the clay with a semifinal in Stuttgart, a title in Madrid, and a final appearance in Rome, where she rolled her ankle and looked in danger to skip Roland Garros. However the ankle has not been a problem for the Romanian in the first two rounds of the French, with straight set wins over Jana Cepelova and Tatjana Maria proving she is the No.1 contender to win the title here.

Daria Kasatkina is a force on clay, but her hardcourt campigns this year in Australia, Middle East and the US did not go well at all, failing to win her first round match in the Australian Open over Peng Shuai, after she seemed like a dark horse after her win over World No.1 Angelique Kerber in Sydney. After another victory over Kerber in Doha, she faced a letdown once again after a loss to Monica Puig. Losing in the first round in Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami, a switch to clay proved helpful as she beat fellow teenager Jelena Ostapenko in the final to capture her first WTA title. It has not gone rosy for the Russian since, failing to pass her openers in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome. Her three-match losing streak stopped in her wins over Yanina Wickmayer and Marketa Vondrousova in the French Open.

Head to head: Halep won their only previous encounter, a 6-3 7-5 win in Miami.

Stat: Halep can take over Angelique Kerber’s top position in the rankings if she wins the French Open title next Sunday.

Thoughts: It’s a tough match-up for Kasatkina – she’s still learning how to shape her game into a more aggressive one, and it’ll be so tough to do that against Halep who is always looking for short balls to dictate play. Kasatkina’s defence and offence will need to be top draw if she is to outhit and outsmart Halep. Both are extremely comfortable on the clay courts, but Halep’s experience, combined with her superior groundstrokes and confidence should be able to take this match.

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