Russia’s Daria Kasatkina hails ‘respectful’ British crowds ahead of Wimbledon
Daria Kasatkina expects the popping of champagne corks to be the most unsettling noise at Wimbledon as she prepares for her first grand slam action since being booed at the French Open.
The world number 11 is among a number of Russian and Belarusian players set to return to the All England Club next week following last year’s ban due to the invasion of Ukraine.
Kasatkina, who first faces Saturday’s Eastbourne final against Madison Keys, left Roland Garros in early June with a “very bitter feeling” having being jeered by the crowd after her defeat to Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.
She is enjoying being back in front of “very respectful” spectators in Britain for the first time in two years and looking forward to competing at SW19.
“I have always liked playing in the UK,” she said following her 6-2 7-5 semi-final win over Camila Giorgi at the Rothesay International. “I had good results here and good memories.
“I’m really happy to be back and to have this opportunity again.
“It feels great because the people here, we can see that they have got the culture of the game, they know when they have to support, when it’s the tight moment of the match.
“They are very respectful to the players. People are super nice to me. I really appreciate the support.”
Knowing Svitolina would stick to her policy of not shaking hands with Russian or Belarusian players, Kasatkina gave her opponent a thumbs-up in Paris but still received boos.
The 26-year-old Russian has been drawn to play American Caroline Dolehide in the first round at Wimbledon.
Asked if she thinks the welcoming atmosphere will continue in south-west London, she replied: “Oh, even more. The tournament is the most classic tournament we have.
“The only disturbing fact on the matches is the popping of the champagne! I’m really happy to be back there.”
Kasatkina, who has spoken against the war in Ukraine, dug in to see off Giorgi on Friday at Devonshire Park.
She breezed through the opening set in just over half-an-hour but was forced to hold off a fightback in a tight second after her Italian opponent battled back from 4-1 down to level at 5-5.
World number 25 Keys awaits her in Saturday’s showpiece after she overcame an injury scare to progress to her second Eastbourne final by upsetting fellow American Coco Gauff.
The 2014 champion, who suffered a painful fall in the middle of the second set, triumphed 6-3 6-3 against the world number seven on a blustery afternoon in Sussex.
“I just took a slip and my hip went in the direction it shouldn’t have gone in,” said the 28-year-old, who has been draw against British wildcard Sonay Kartal at Wimbledon. “Hopefully it’s fine for tomorrow.
“I’ve had a little bit of a not great year so far, so being able to make a final here where I won my first title is amazing.
“It’s definitely 10 times more difficult when you have to play Coco and then you throw in hurricane winds on top of it.”