Decisions, decisions. What’s a teenager to do?
Daria Kasatkina was crowned champion of the 2017 Volvo Car Open on a sun-drenched Sunday on Daniel Island. She raised the victor’s trophy to the sky, accepted a paycheck for $132,380 and then learned Lex Kerssemakers, Volvo’s senior vice president of the America Region and president and CEO of Volvo Cars of North America, had sweetened the pot. He offered the 19-year-old Russian the choice of one of three Volvos to drive free of charge for a year.
“The big one, the SUV I took,” Kasatkina revealed in the post-match press conference. “In Slovakia (where I train), not the best roads, not like in USA. So I have to take a big car, big safety car.”
The roads in Slovakia might be a bit bumpy, but the road to Paris and Roland Garros seemed to get a lot smoother as Kasatkina topped another 19-year-old rising star, Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3, 6-1 to claim her first WTA title. It was the first time in seven years that two teens played in a WTA final. Kasatkina played a smart match against the aggressive Ostapenko, moving her foe all over the court and then going for the corners. She also used her slice to force Ostapenko into numerous errors.
Kasatkina has an ever-improving resume. She owns back-to-back victories over World No. 1 Angelique Kerber, but those matches were played on hard courts. She’s now focused on the European clay court season, which climaxes with the championship on the red clay of Roland Garros on June 11.
The victory in the 66-minute match, witnessed by 7,491 fans, gives Kasatkina a 9-1 record in Charleston and pushed her record for the 2017 season to 12-8. The triumph increased her prize money this year to $300,632.
Kasatkina joined a small tennis sorority of Chris Evert, Tracy Austin, Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis and Sabine Lisicki as teenage winners of the Volvo Car Open that began 45 years ago in Hilton Head as the Family Circle Cup.
A bigger than life-size poster of Kasatkina will hang outside Billie Jean King Stadium and will greet fans and competitors in next year’s event. But on Sunday, Kasatkina was just trying to let it all sink in.
“(It is) very difficult to describe my feeling now,” said Kasatkina, who reached the quarterfinals in Charleston last year before losing to 2016 champion Sloane Stephens. “I feel like I’m just sleeping and everything is not real. I’m so happy, really. I don’t (even) know what to say. When I won the last ball, everything like closed and I just feel like I am dreaming.”
Kasatkina could rise to World No. 28 when the WTA updates its rankings. Ostapenko, who competed in her first clay court final and third final overall, should crack the top 50.
Ostapenko reached the championship by beating fifth-seed Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals and 11th seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the semifinals.
Ostapenko defeated Kasatkina on grass in Eastbourne last year, but was no match against her foe on Sunday as she ran out of steam.
“I feel really great, like I was playing good all the days this week, “Ostapenko said. “I beat some great players, but today was really not my day, and I just didn’t feel the ball that well, and I was missing too much, and because she was only defending during the whole match. It was just probably not my day.”
In the doubles championship, American Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Czech Lucie Safarova claimed the title with a 6-1, 4-6 (10-7) victory over the Czech team of Lucie Hradecka and Katerina Siniakova.