Tennis

Liudmila Samsonova Outplays Qinwen Zheng in Toray Pan Pacific Open Final

The Russian earned her third WTA Tour title of the season without dropping a set in her five matches at Tokyo’s Ariake Colosseum.

Liudmila Samsonova poses with the winner's prize after the 2022 Toray Pan Pacific Open final at Ariake Colosseum on September 25. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

Liudmila Samsonova has played at a consistently high level over the past several weeks, resulting in an impressive late-season run of success.

The 23-year-old Russian has won 18 of her last 19 matches, including the Toray Pan Pacific Open final on Sunday, September 25 at Ariake Colosseum. Samsonova defeated Qinwen Zheng 7-5, 7-5 to claim her third WTA Tour title of the season. 

In August, Samsonova won the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. and the Tennis in the Land tournament in Cleveland before reaching the fourth round of the US Open.

At the Cleveland tournament, which wrapped up on August 27, the 30th-ranked Samsonova won all five of her matches without dropping a set. 

At the Toray Pan Pacific Open she did the same thing, with successive victories over 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, 6-2, 6-4; Shuai Zhang, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3; Garbine Muguruza, 6-4, 6-2; Xinyu Wang, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2; and Zheng. 

In a tight duel for each point in the final, the first set was knotted at 5-5 before Samsonova made a few clutch returns to pull away. She closed out the 57-minute first set with a pair of forehand winners.

In the opening set, Samsonova recorded 14 winners against nine unforced errors. Her opponent had 11 winners.

It was more of the same in the second set, with both players exerting pressure on one another.  

"It was a really tough match [and] huge congrats to Qinwen and her team because she's playing amazing,” Samsonova said after the match. “Seriously, congrats, guys. It was a nervous match today. We were fighting every point. It was tough."

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Strong Foundation with a Quality Serve

This year, Samsonova has excelled when holding serve, winning 80.9% of those games. 

Fittingly, she closed out her victory over Zheng while holding serve.

Samsonova was equally effective on returns with her forehand and backhand. She displayed keen court awareness while patrolling the baseline, but also picked her spots well to attack the net, including in the crucial rallies of the 69-minute second set.

"The atmosphere was incredible, and I hope to come back next year," Samsonova told reporters.

In the second round, Zheng upset top-seeded Spaniard Paula Badosa 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday.

Zheng, 19, is the first Chinese teenager to play in a WTA singles final. 

Dabrowski, Olmos Nab Doubles Title

In Sunday’s doubles final, Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos, the No. 2 seeds, defeated American Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Australia’s Ellen Perez 6-4, 6-4.

The doubles tandem collected its second title of 2022 after winning at the Madrid Open in May.

Early Departure for Osaka

Naomi Osaka pulled out of the tournament before her second-round match, citing abdominal pain.

The Rakuten Japan Open, a men’s tournament, will be held October 3-9 at Ariake Colosseum.

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Author:  Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward's [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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