Exclusive: Kasatkina and partner Zabiiako share the story behind their unique project


With the cancellation of Netflix’s Break Point, tennis fans are keeping up with their favorite stars in other ways. One of the fun ways to learn what’s going on behind the scenes of the sport is with Daria Kasatkina and her partner Natalia Zabiiako’s YouTube channel, What the Vlog. Women’s Tennis Blog spoke with the tennis star and her Russian-Estonian figure skater girlfriend about what makes the project so special for fans and the players.

Daria Kasatkina and partner Natalia Zabiiako

The pair have posted nearly 140 videos for their approximately 43k subscribers. Videos get up to 200k views and are mostly between 30 and 60 minutes long. Frequent guests on the program include Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina, and Jelena Ostapenko. The Indian Wells edition featured an appearance from Coco Gauff when she and Kasatkina practiced together.

When the pair announced their relationship in 2022, Kasatkina was the first high-ranking singles player to come out since Amelie Mauresmo. At the first tournament they traveled to publicly, the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, many sports fans stopped Zabiiako for autographs and selfies because they were fans of her Olympic skating career. Two years later, fans of all ages and backgrounds stop for selfies and complement the videos.

Daria Kasatkina with partner Natalia Zabiiako

Originally, the YouTube channel was meant to be an outlet to share vacation videos, but as it grew in popularity. The silver medalist Zabiiako told us, “We thought maybe we can show the tennis tournaments.” Initially, the two were afraid to interfere with the many complicated media rights that get sold to TV networks, “We were a bit scared to film everywhere because maybe it’s prohibited. But we started, and then we thought that maybe it’s good to show fans the tennis players. Especially girls tennis players, they are not just athletes, they’re humans with their own like feelings and problems.”

Filming matches would be a big legal concern, but it’s not something the 29-year-old would do in any case. While her courtside persona gives off a calm and composed air, she is anxiously watching her partner from the player’s box: “I couldn’t film even if I wanted because I’m so nervous. I just film before the tournament starts.” The shoots are typically done around the practice areas, player dining, transport, and hotels.

The channel got a big boost during the 2023 US Open, during Kastakina’s pre-match interview ahead of facing Aryna Sabalenka in the round of 16. Ready to get on the court, the then-thirteenth seed told Rennae Stubbs, “We spent the whole day yesterday thinking how to promote my YouTube channel and this is it: guys, subscribe, just search my surname on YouTube and you’ll find it.” The idea to promote it this way came from the frequent guest star and close friend of the hosts, Daria Saville.

Whereas the skater is the creative behind the project and told us she has no interest in the subscriber numbers, likes, and view counts, the tennis player described herself as an accountant. Kasatkina insists that statistics in tennis are of no use to her, that she plays by feel, but for money and vlog numbers she keeps careful track: “The US Open interview was a huge trampoline. I didn’t even imagine. We got 13 or 15 thousand subscribers in three days.” She laughed and added, “It was a smart move.”

What The Vlog pulls the curtain back on what tour life is like. The 26-year-old veteran Kasatkina explained, “People have a picture of a super luxury sport, which it is in one way, but there is also another part of the story. So we’re trying to show both. We are showing the great hotels, flying business class, amazing sites of the big tournaments, but, we’re also showing how we actually get there, how much time we spend on the road, being not at home and practicing…”

The YouTube channel shows another side of the hosts and her friends on tour: “Aryna and Alona, they’re very funny girls. On the court, they’re super aggressive and you can be scared of them, but outside of the court they’re very funny and nice. We want to show that.”

Daria Kasatkina and girlfriend Natalia Zabiiako

Comparing their work with Break Point, Kasatkina said: “We are not looking into the drama. We are more funny content.” Looking ahead, the two are not planning to expand outside their current platforms, but are always searching for ways to show fans new aspects. Zabiiako, who herself is a bit of an outsider to the sport and just learning it herself said, “for now, we want to show people more and more interviews,” she paused and added, “maybe with judges, something interesting.”

The videos don’t post on a regular schedule, so like the US Open interview instructed, you can subscribe to get the latest behind-the-scenes WTA content with guest appearances from familiar faces.


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