In sharp contrast to conditions in Birmingham, the semi-finals of the WTA 500 bett1open in Berlin were played in scorching heat and saw Belinda Bencic, the No 5 seed, beat Alizé Cornet and qualifier Liudmila Samsonova stunned 7th-seeded Victoria Azarenka to reach Sunday’s final.
I always try to play as many tournaments on grass as possible because I just love the surface. Belinda Bencic
Samsonova pulled off a major upset as she ousted the 2-time Australian Open winner, 6-4 6-2, sending the Russian on a 6-match winning streak after coming through qualifying, and having eliminated 2 former Grand Slam finalists in Madison Keys and Marketa Vondrousova in the early rounds.
Bencic won her semi-final against Cornet, 7-5 6-4, on Saturday after converting all 4 of her break points and saving 8 of 10 on her own serve.
The Swiss last won a title in Moscow in 2019 and her only final since then was a loss to Iga Swiatek in Adelaide in February, while she last won a grass court tournament in Eastbourne in 2015, beating Agnieszka Radwanska for her first career title.
“Of course it gives me a lot of confidence,” Bencic said, after her win. “It’s always great to have this confirmation on grass that it’s working well.”
The World No 12 improved to 3-1 against Cornet after her 1 hour 47 minute victory placed her into the 4th grass court final of her career.
“I always try to play as many tournaments on grass as possible because I just love the surface,” Bencic added.
A bevy of deft play by both resulted in the first break of the day going to Bencic, as she broke for 3-2 with a winning pass.
Cornet rebounded on return, breaking back for 4-4, but Bencic reclaimed her advantage by edging ahead 6-5 and clinching a chance to serve for the set.
That game proved to be a true tussle, as Bencic had to withstand 4 break points before advancing to her first set point, when Cornet then fended off 3 set points before missing a return long to hand Bencic a 4th chance to close out the set.
After a nearly 15-minute game, Bencic finally wrapped up the set with an error-forcing forehand.
A love break by Bencic in the first game of the second set was echoed by Cornet further down the road, when the Frenchwoman eventually broke back at love for 4-4, but Cornet dropped serve in the very next game with three double-faults, ceding a 5-4 advantage to the Swiss and she made no mistake serving out the match to love to charge into another final.
Samsonova continued her dream run in Berlin by beating Azarenka, the World No 16, quite comfortably on Steffi Graff Stadion later in the day.
“It’s all incredible for me, so new and I am happy and it’s unbelievable for me,” the excited Russian said later.
Ranked 106, she had the better start, earning the first two break points of the match and getting an early 2-0 lead before Azarenka had 2 chances to go back on serve, which Samsonova saved both and held serve.
It stayed on serve until 5-3 when the Russian had 2 set points on the Belarusian’s delivery, but Azarenka save them to force Samsonova to serve out the first set.
The second was a mirror image of the first, with the 22-year-old getting 2 more break points and breaking to take an early 1-0 lead, which she would later manage to turn into a double break.
At 4-0, the Russian had a chance to break again, setting up a break point with a powerful forehand winner, but Azarenka save them both with 2 big serves.
At 5-2, Samsonova served out the match to book her spot in Sunday’s final where she will faces Bencic.
In her post-match press conference, Samsonova reflected on playing the Swiss.
“I’m sure it’s going to be another tough match because she plays very good on this surface and she’s a good player, so I will try to do my best and focus on my game and we will see,” the Russian said.
Samsonova claimed her second Top 20 win of her career by firing 24 winners, including 11 aces, past the Belarusian, and is the 5th qualifier to reach a singles final on the WTA this season, now making her Top 100 debut next week.
This will be the first time Belinda Bencic and Liudmila Samsonova will meet in a WTA match.