She might not be leaving the California desert with a big, crystal trophy in hand, but 20-year-old Russian Daria Kasatkina leaves the BNP Paribas Open with something just as valuable: perspective.
"I beat very good players, and in the right moments I was doing the right decisions, so it means I'm growing as a player," Kasatkina said on Sunday afternoon, after falling to fellow 20-year-old Naomi Osaka in the final of the first Premier Mandatory event of the season, 6-3, 6-2.
"This is the most important thing for me."
After earning a break of serve to begin the match, Kasatkina never led again as Osaka's power tennis won out on the afternoon.
Despite the defeat, the former French Open junior champion charmed the crowd with an inspiring runner-up speech, where she encouraged all watching to chase their dreams.
Though she was playing in her fourth career WTA final to Osaka's second, Sunday's championship was a step up in tournament caliber for Kasatkina, whose last three finals came at Premier-level events.
She won her first career title at last year's Volvo Car Open in Charleston over Jelena Ostapenko.
"Compared to, for example, finals in Charleston, [the feeling of being in the final] was really close. I don't know why in Charleston I was able to go on court and forget about these things, but today it was a different story," Kasatkina reflected.
"I think with experience with matches I will get it...I think it will get better."
Kasatkina came into Indian Wells on a run of good form after reaching her first final of the season at the Premier-level Dubai Tennis Championships, and knocked off three Grand Slam champions in Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams to reach the biggest final of her career at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
As a result of her exploits, the Russian will nonetheless rise to a new career-best ranking of World No.11 on Monday.
"I have already the next tournament in Miami...also a big one, so I have to really forget [this week]," she added. "It's just another kind of experience, which I have to get used to: go from the finals, go to another tournament, forget about last week and just play."
Kasatkina will have the opportunity to do just that at the Miami Open, the next Premier Mandatort event on the calendar.
She will begin her tournament as the No.19 seed against the winner of the first round match between another 20-something, 21-year-old Belinda Bencic, and a qualifier.
"This is what I'm working for, to improving my game to play on the big stages against the big players. I'm happy that the hard work is paying off. We will see in the next tournaments how it will go, because I will try not to get happy with this final, because it's just the next step, and I have more tournaments in front [of me]."
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This article was first seen on www.wtatennis.com.