The depth of women’s tennis these days was emphasised again as World No 60, Liudmila Samsonova, put paid to Emma Raducanu’s hopes of making her first semi-final on the regular WTA Tour at the Citi Open in Washington, DC, late on Friday night.
I did not really have expectations, but if someone told me, ‘Hey you’re going to be ranked inside the top 100 in six months,’ I would definitely take it. I’m really proud of myself. Daria Saville
Despite a tight opening set, Raducanu was ultimately overpowered 7-6(6) 6-1 by the Russian, who saved 4 set points on her way to clinching the first set before cruising home in the second with 9 aces and 33 winners against the No 2 seed.
In a match that started late on Friday and ended after midnight in the early hours of Saturday morning, Samsonova struck 33 winners, while Raducanu could only muster up a single ace among her 8 winners and came unglued with 24 unforced errors in the encounter.
The 1 hour 46 minute win was Samsonova’s second over a Top 10 player in her career, having previously upset Karolina Pliskova in Stuttgart, when the Czech was ranked 7.
The 4 set points the Russian saved in the first set came at 5-4 and in the tiebreak, two apiece, to grit out the one-set lead and, having prevailed in the tight opener, Samsonova cruised through the second to reach her second semi-final of the year, after Stuttgart.
It was disappointment for Raducanu, who had fought her way past Colombian Camila Osorio in the gruelling late afternoon heat on Thursday in the longest 2-setter of the season, and looked physically and mentally spent after losing the closely-contested first set on Friday.
She also hampered by blisters but still managed to beat Osorio, 7-6(5) 7-6(4).
“It came out of nowhere to be honest,” she explained on Thursday. “At the beginning of the match I was alright, then throughout the match my skin was just ripping off.
“In the beginning, there was like a flap, but then the flap got ripped off and it was pretty raw and open.”
Raducanu now will turn her attention to the WTA 1000 tournament in Toronto, Canada, where she is seeded 9th and starts on Monday.
Meanwhile, another seed fell in Washington on Friday, when 21-year-old Chinese lucky loser Wang Xiyu made the second WTA semi-final of her career, ousting former World No 1 Victoria Azarenka, 6-1 6-3, in 80 minutes.
Wang’s run through the main draw continued, despite falling in the final round of qualifying, as she took advantage of a fatigued Azarenka, who won a gruelling 80-minute set earlier in day as part of a straight-sets win over Czech Tereza Martincova, 7-6(7) 6-2, in a rain-delayed second-round match.
The 2-time Grand Slam champion from Belarus could not rebound for her second match of the day, taking a medical time-out at the start of the second set before succumbing to the left-hander.
Wang, the World No 95, converted 6 of her 11 break points and will face Samsonova in the semi-finals on Saturday.
At the top of the draw, Daria Saville defeated qualifier Rebecca Marino, 6-1 7-5, the former Top 20 Aussie ending the Canadian’s run, who had defeated former Top 10 players Venus Williams from the US and Germany’s Andrea Petkovic in back-to-back matches earlier this week.
Saville, the World No 88, whose ranking dropped to No.627 in February of this year after Achilles tendon surgery in 2021, backed up her upset of the No 1 seed and defending champion Jessica Pegula.
“The reason why I really wanted that surgery,” the former World No 20 said. “I was like, ‘This is just not giving me a chance like to see my whole potential.’ I was hurting.
“So now I’m like, ‘Okay, you have a chance now every week to see how far you can go, how much improvement you can make. Like these little wins I take every single day or every single week.”
2022 has turned out to be a resurgence for her, a year she has spent balancing playing impressive tennis with using her platform to speak out against the war in Ukraine.
Saville, who competed under her maiden name, Gavrilova, until her marriage in 2021, first tweeted a plea for Russia to stop its invasion of Ukraine in February and has since admitted that she would not feel safe returning to her native land.
The 28-year old has represented Australia since 2015 and, on Friday, she regrouped impressively to defeat Marino after the rain delay.
“When I went off court, my coach said: ‘Okay, what do you think you’re doing well? Aside from everything’,” Saville said, smiling, and adding that her strategy after the break was to compete as if the match were starting anew.
“I did not really have expectations, but if someone told me, ‘Hey you’re going to be ranked inside the top 100 in six months,’ I would definitely take it,’” Saville said. “I’m really proud of myself.”
Marino fought back from a 6-1, 3-0 deficit after a rain delay, but Saville held on and moved into her first tour-level semi-final since Acapulco in 2018.
Saville’s semi-final opponent is 37-year old Kaia Kanepi after the Estonian got past Russian Anna Kalinskaya, 6-7(4) 6-4 6-3.
Kanepi, a quarter-finalist at this year’s Australian Open, made her first semi-final of the season with a gruelling two-and-a-half hour victory over Kalinskaya, in the only match that finished ahead of Friday’s rain delay.
“It was a very tough match,” said Kanepi, a former Top 20 player, afterwards. “It was so hot on the court.
“I don’t know, actually, how I managed to win. Just tried to play my game, but she also played her game really well.”
The No 6 seed is the only seed to have made it into the Last 4 and now the favourite to win the title, at least on paper.