Belinda Bencic’s hopes of gaining more points in the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals were dashed at the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open on Friday when the top-seeded Swiss was beaten by Russia’s Liudmilla Samsonova, the No 7 seed, 6-1 6-4, in an hour and 13 minutes.
I think I played a very solid match and I didn’t let her get a chance today. I’m very pleased and happy with the win. I just hope I can go in and play a solid match tomorrow and see how far it goes. Clara Tauson
Also upset in the quarter-finals was Belgian Elise Mertens, the 2nd seed, who was taken out of contention by Czech Marketa Vondrousova, the 5th seed, 7-5 6-2.
It was Samsonova’s second win over Bencic, having also beaten her on grass in the final of Bett1 Open in Berlin, to claim her first WTA title in June.
Bencic, ranked 12 in the world and the reigning Olympic champion, dropped her serve 3 times in her first event since reaching the quarter-finals of the US Open, where she lost to eventual champion Emma Raducanu.
The Russian put in 57% of her first-serves in to Bencic’s 60%, but won 80% of her first-serve points compared to 56% by the Swiss.
Samsonova also won marginally more points off her second serves compared to her opponent, 65% to the latter’s 63%, ending up with 61 points to Bencic’s 44 for the match.
Ranked 48, Samsonova now takes on 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia on Saturday for a place in the final.
Ostapenko is the highest seed left standing in Luxembourg after defeating 8th seed Alizé Cornet, 7-6(6) 6-2, in an hour and 31 minutes.
The No 3 seed played a clutch match, especially in the second set, to see off the tricky Frenchwoman, facing just 2 break points, both of which came in the first set, and unable to save either.
She broke Cornet a total of 4 times, however, finishing with a dozen more points, 72 to the Frenchwoman’s 60, to take the match.
Ostapenko improved her winning run to 8-0 after riding the momentum from the tense tiebreak into a more seamless second set.
Fifth seed Vondrousova needed an hour and 37 minutes to complete her upset win over Mertens, the World No 16, breaking the Belgian 5 times while losing her serve twice during the course of the match.
The 2020 Tokyo Games’ silver medallist, who won 72 points for the match to her opponent’s 57 and has yet to drop a set in Luxembourg, meets Denmark’s Clara Tauson in the semi-finals.
Vondrousova, a former Roland Garros finalist, upset Naomi Osaka en route to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics final.
To face either Ostapenko or Samsonova here, the Czech must get past the Danish teenager, who is the only unseeded player left in the draw after seeing off another Czech, Marie Bouzkova, 6-3 6-2, to ease into her second career semi-final.
“I think I played a very solid match and I didn’t let her get a chance today,” Tauson said after the match. “I’m very pleased and happy with the win.”
Tauson roared through the WTA 250 in Lyon to win her first title back in March, and has amassed a 9-1 record in her last 3 tournaments after winning a WTA 125K title in Chicago, with her only loss coming at the hands of World No 1 Ash Barty at the US Open.
The 19-year-old takes on Vondrousova for the first time in singles, having fallen to her in doubles last month in Chicago.
“I just hope I can go in and play a solid match tomorrow and see how far it goes,” Tauson added.
The WTA 250 Luxembourg’s premier tennis tournament resumed action for the first time since 2019 earlier in the week, having had to cancel the 2020 edition of the tournament due to COVID-19, and witnessed the emotional farewell of its country’s top-ranked player Mandy Minella.
Also, former World No 1 Ana Ivanovic and Germany’s recently retired Julia Goerges were presented with the Jana Novotna Award earlier this week.
Inaugurated in 2017, the tribute goes to a player who shows special affinity for and commitment to the WTA 250 event, which has been held annually since 1996.
Monica Niculescu, the 2016 champion, was first to be recognised and, in 2018, the award was renamed in honour of the late Czech champion Jana Novotna and presented to home favourite Minella.
Ivanovic, the recipient for 2020, won her 5th career title at Luxembourg in 2007, recovering a 6-3 3-0 deficit against Daniela Hantuchova in the final.
For her part, 2021 recipient Goerges won her 6th title here in 2018, the year she made her Top 10 debut, defeating Bencic for the trophy.
Ivanovic and Goerges were presented with their awards in the presence of the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel and Luxembourg City Mayor Lydie Polfer at a gala event at the Philharmonie that was also attended by His Royal Highness Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg, an avid sports fan.