Tokyo | Samsonova claims Toray Pan Pacific title

Liudmila Samsonova continued her run of fine form to claim the Toray Pan Pacific title when she beat 19-year old Zheng Qinwen, 7-5 7-5, in the WTA 500 final on Sunday in Tokyo.

I played a high level in all my five matches. I am incredibly happy about how I managed it. Liudmila Samsonova

The Russian World No 30 won her 3rd title in 4 tournaments, having also lifted the trophies in Washington and Cleveland in August.

“It’s amazing, I don’t have too many words right now,” Samsonova said on court. “I need little bit of time.”

In Tokyo, she produced a string of giant-killing upsets on her way to claiming the title, taking out both the reigning Wimbledon champion, Elena Rybakina, and two-time Grand Slam winner Garbiñe Muguruza, and not dropping a set all week.

Samsonova improved her unblemished record in finals to 4-0, continuing her incredible hard court run to lift her 3rd title in 2 months, while it was the 18th win in her last 19 matches for the 23-year-old, with her only defeat since July coming against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in the 4th-round of the US Open this month.

Going into Sunday, Samsonova led the tour in service game win percentage, posting an 81.5% hold rate this season while, in her wins over Rybakina, Zhang Shuai, Muguruza, and Wang Xinyu and now Zheng, she lost serve just 6 times in Tokyo.

Zheng, who is on a fast track herself and was appearing in her first WTA final after knocking out top seed Paula Badosa in the 2nd-round, has enjoyed a stand-out week in Tokyo, where she became the first Chinese teenager to ever reach a WTA singles final while, on Monday, she will become the first Chinese teenager to crack the Top 30.


19-year old Zheng Qinwen went toe-to-toe with Liudmilla Samsonova but lost the Tokyo final in straight sets

© Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Sunday’s final was a baseline battle of powerful ground strokes, with both serving strongly, and Zheng going toe-to-toe with Samsonova in a very tight match before the 19-year coughed up her first double-fault to offer the Russian the opportunity to break.

Samsonova calmly converted her chance, and then comfortably held her own delivery to take the first set after 57 minutes, finishing with 14 winners to 9 unforced errors, while Zheng struck 11 winners to 10 miscues.

After breaking Zheng for a second time to lead 3-2 in the second set, Samsonova played her first nervy game of the match to give the Chinese her first chance of the match to break, which she finally did to get herself back on track at 3-3.

After having traded breaks, Samsonova once again breached Zheng’s serve in the 11th game, and then held her own serve to love, converting her first match point when the Chinese failed to keep a backhand return inside the line after 2 hours and 6 minutes on court.

“I played a high level in all my five matches,” Samsonova said. “I am incredibly happy about how I managed it.”

Zheng out-aced Samsonova 9 to 4, but Samsonova held the edge from the baseline, holding the Chinese to just 8 winners from the baseline and finishing with 21 winners to 27 unforced errors, while Zheng hit 17 total winners, aces included, to 28 miscues.

“It was a really tough match because huge congrats to Qinwen and her team because she’s playing amazing,” Samsonova said during the trophy ceremony. “Seriously, congrats guys.

“It was a nervous match today. We were fighting every point. It was tough.”

The red-hot World No 30 is now 18-1 in her last 19 matches, with 16 of those 18 wins coming in straight sets, while 2 of her titles this season have been won without dropping a set, first in Cleveland and now Tokyo.

Samsonova’s latest win came after a host of big names fell early in the tournament, with US Open semi-finalist Caroline Garcia from France joining Badosa in a 2nd-round exit, while Japanese home favourite and defending champion Naomi Osaka withdrew with abdominal pain.

The tournament was being held for the first time since 2019 because of the pandemic.


Giuliana Olmos (L) & Gabriela Dabrowski beat Nicole Melichar-Martinez & Ellen Perez to win the doubles title in Tokyo

© Yuichi Yamazaki/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, in the doubles final, No 2 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski & Giuliana Olmos defeated 4th-seeded Nicole Melichar-Martinez & Ellen Perez, 6-4 6-4, to lift the doubles title.

Dabrowski & Olmos did not lose a set en route to their second title of the season.

In addition to defeating the 4th seeds in the final, the Canadian-Mexican duo also beat No 3 seeds Desiree Krawczyk & Demi Schuurs in the semi-finals.

In the final, Dabrowski & Olmos broke once in each set to maintain control, and faced down 3 break points to go unbroken in the match, with the pressure points consistently going the way of the champions, as Dabrowski and Olmos went 4 for 4 on deciding points.

The Tokyo title extended Dabrowski’s win streak to 8 matches after the Canadian teamed with Luisa Stefani to win Chennai last week.


Tokyo champion Ludmilla Samsonova (R) and runner-up Zheng Qinwen pose with their trophies at the Toray Pan Pacific Open on Sunday

© Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images


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