Margarita Gasparyan of Russia reacts during the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy-2021 tennis tournament semi-final match against Vera Zvonareva of Russia in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, March 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
Wild card Margarita Gasparyan is looking to end a three-year title drought (9:30 am EDT Sunday)
- Seven of the eight St. Petersburg quarterfinalists were Russian – an all-Russian final was inevitable
- Kasatkina usually wins when she’s the favorite – will Gasparyan break that trend Sunday?
The No. 8 seed, Daria Kasatkina was fourth on the odds list to win the tournament at +1000.
Gasparyan, a wild card into the tournament and ranked No. 126 coming in, was way down the list at +3300.
And yet, they are the last two standing for Sunday’s final.
Margarita Gasparyan vs Daria Kasatkina Odds
|Player||Spread||Moneyline||Total at DraftKings|
|[WC] Margarita Gasparyan (RUS)||+3.5 (+125)||+230||O 20.5 (-106)|
| Daria Kasatkina (RUS)||-3.5 (-159)||-305||U 20.5 (-120)|
Odds taken March 20
Former Top-10 Returning to Form
After reaching the top 10 just 2 1/2 years ago, Kasatkina seemed to have lost her way for awhile.
One of the more intriguing players to watch on the WTA Tour because of her guile, spin and all-court game, she was ranked No. 13 in the world when she parted ways with coach Philippe Deshaes after a poor start to 2019.
He was the ultimate on-court tactician and motivator.
And yet, at just 21, she felt she “needed to take control of her tennis”.
It seemed rather a hasty move after a few poor results. And by the end of that season she was down to No. 70. She remained right there through all of 2020.
But 2021 has brought a renaissance.
Kasatkina won six straight matches to win the WTA tournament held in Melbourne during the second week of the Australian Open.
And now, with the final in St. Petersburg, she’s already back in the top 50.
If she wins Sunday, she’ll be back in the top 40.
Gasparyan’s Long Comeback From Injury
One of the relatively few women on the WTA Tour who boasts a one-handed backhand, Gasparyan has had a career that so far has been decimated by a knee issue.
Gasparyan missed eight consecutive Grand Slam tournaments between Wimbledon in 2016 and the US Open in 2018. She had three surgeries on her left meniscus, but still was dealing with pain even when she returned.
She kept trying in 2019, but retired mid-tournament six times during that season (including a horrific moment at Wimbledon) and twice more after tennis returned to action in the second half of 2020.
No wonder she was so emotional when she finally put away Vera Zvonareva in Saturday’s St. Petersburg semifinal.
Gasparyan vs Kasatkina Head-to-Head Statistics
|26 (Aug. 31, 1994)||Age||23 (May 6, 1997)|
|Moscow, Russia||Birthplace||Togliatty, Russia|
|2||WTA Singles Titles||3|
|4||WTA Doubles Titles||1|
|No. 63||Current Ranking||No. 61|
|No. 41 (Feb. 14, 2016)||Career High Ranking||No. 10 (Oct. 21, 2018)|
|$1,814,201||Career Prize Money||$6,555,127|
A Phalanx of Russians to Get Through
With seven Russians among the final eight, Gasparyan and Kasatkina had to almost play the Russian national championships to get through to the final.
Gasparyan rolled No. 1 seed (and pre-tournament odds favorite) Ekaterina Alexandrova in straight sets. Then she did the same in a jangled-nerve contest against 36-year-old Vera Zvonareva, who easily defeated her the previous year at the same event.
The underdog Kasatkina came back against No. 2 seed Veronika Kudermetova and No. 4 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova (with whom she sometimes shares coach Carlos Martinez) after losing the first set 6-1 on both occasions.
2021 UEFA Champions League Odds Tracker
Kasatkina with the Harder Road
Gasparyan’s last three matches have been won in straight sets; Kasatkina has gone the distance in her last three and lost the first set each time.
Given that history, going for Gasparyan to win the first set (+185) is a good play.
As with most of the all-Russian matchups this week, there are few priors; these two are meeting for the first time.
Gasparyan’s versatile backhand – she can both hit the one-handed topspin shot and slice effectively – gives her the tools to deal with Kasatkina’s variety. But she might struggle a bit with the heavy topspin. And if she was a bundle of nerves in the semifinal against the equally agitated Zvonareva, you’d think she’d be even more nervous with her first title in nearly three years just two sets away.
Kasatkina, per DraftKings, is 12-1 as the favorite so far in 2021. That’s telling.
Prediction: Kasatkina in three sets (+300)
Stephanie gets the straight dope from the tennis insiders. On court, she has represented her country internationally. A BA in journalism led to years on the MLB beat and a decade covering tennis globally. She’s written for Postmedia, the Guardian, the New York Times and also publishes OpenCourt.ca.