No Rest For Li, She Just Keeps Winning At Courmayeur

Ann Li (photo: Francesco Peluso/Courmayeur Ladies Open)

COURMAYEUR/WASHINGTON, October 28, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Just three days after Ann Li of the United States won her first WTA tour-level singles title at the Tenerife Ladies Open in the Spanish Canary Islands, the 48th-ranked American played her debut match Wednesday in the Courmayeur Ladies Open in Courmayeur, an Alpine resort in northwest Italy, at the foot of Mont Blanc – and won.

The ninth seed Li, just 21 and a native of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, extended her winning streak to six matches after rallying from a set down to defeat 118th-ranked Kamilla Rakhimova of Russia, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, to advance to Thursday’s second round against No. 102 Magdalena Frech of Poland.

Li’s victory over Rakhimova gained her a bit of revenge after losing to the Russian last year in Roland Garros qualifying.

Other seeded winners moving on include: No. 3 Liudmila Samsonova of Russia, who is the highest seed remaining in the tournament following withdrawals by No. 1 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia and No. 2 seed Camila Giorgi of Italy before play began. Samsonova defeated 175th-ranked Spanish qualifier Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, 6-3, 6-3. Also, No. 5 Clara Tauson of Denmark, ranked 49th, advanced over 193rd-ranked qualifier Giulia Gatto-Monticone of Italy, 6-4, 6-1; and No. 10 Dayana Yastremska ranked 79th, won 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 over No. 132 Kateryna Kozlova in an all-Ukraine tussle.

Halloween spirit shown by Romania’s Cristian

At the Transylvania Open in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, top seed Simona Halep felt at home during her 73-minute 6-1, 6-2 victory over fellow Romanian Elena-Gabriela Ruse, ranked 85th, 6-1, 6-2 on Wednesday. Halep improved to 14-0 against fellow Romanians in WTA main-draw competitions.

Meanwhile, Romanian wild card Jaqueline Cristian, ranked 105th, pulled off an upset of No. 5 seed Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, 7-6 (5), 7-5, to reach the quarterfinals in her home country following an earlier win over No. 98 Kaja Juvan of Slovenia. Cristian outpointed Tomljanovic 92-85 during the two-hour and 11-minute match. Next, she could face Halep if the World No. 18 beats No. 81 Varvara Gracheva of Russia on Thursday.

“It was an incredible battle and I’m really happy with this win,” an elated Cristian said during an on-court TV interview after beating Tomljanovic. The 23-year-old from Bucharest has been sporting a Dracula-themed cape during her on-court introductions this week. “I think Dracula is my lucky one this week. Apparently, he’s alive at night. Thank you for the support. I really felt it.

“I was expecting a good fight and she’s a really good player,” Cristian added. “It’s even more special and winning at home is very special. I’m happy with the win and want to enjoy the moment.”

Race to the finish line between Jabeur and Kontaveit

With the Porsche Race To The WTA Finals coming down to the wire, one spot remains up for grabs. It’s a race between two players – Ons Jabeur of Tunisia and Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. One happens to be enjoying a record-breaking breakout season. The other has simply been the hottest player on the WTA tour since Wimbledon, winning three titles and achieving a career-high ranking.

With the Akron WTA Finals set to take place in Guadalajara, Mexico from Nov. 10-17, it’s anyone’s guess who will garner the final place that opened up after World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty announced last week that she would forego playing in the season-ending tournament and remain at home in Australia to begin preparations for next season. Currently, Jabeur is in ninth place in the standings with 3,020 points, 139 points ahead of Kontaveit in 10th place with 2,881 points.

Jabeur was set to be the top seed in this week’s WTA 250 Courmayeur Ladies Open in Courmayeur, Italy, but was forced to withdraw before the start of the tournament with an elbow injury that she sustained at the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow last week.

Meanwhile, Kontaveit won the tournament in Russia – following recent wins in Cleveland, Ohio and Ostrava, Czech Republic – and is the No. 2 seed this week in the WTA 250 Transylvania Open in Cluj-Napoli, Romania. She won her first-round match against 140th-ranked qualifier Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia, 6-3, 7-5, for her 11th straight indoor victory and takes on Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck, ranked 61st, a recent title winner in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, in the second round Thursday.

Kontaveit has strung together wins in 22 of her last 24 matches going back to Cleveland before the US Open. She needs to win this week’s tournament in Cluj-Napoca to secure the final berth in Guadalajara.

“I honestly am not trying to think about it too much,” Kontaveit admitted when asked during press on Wednesday about her WTA Finals goal. “Recently, I’ve been enjoying being out on the court a lot more, and I think that’s something to really be happy about and be proud about.”

Svitolina, Bettles to go separate ways

On Monday, World No. 6 Elina Svitolina announced via social media that she and her coach of the past five years, Andrew Bettles, had decided to go their separate ways. Bettles of Great Britain helped guide Svitolina to 12 titles since 2018 after starting as her hitting partner.

“Andy and I both agreed it was the right time to move our separate ways,” Svitolina wrote on social media. “I am very thankful for all his hard work and endless support. I wish him only the best in his future career.”

Iga of Troy: Fight on!

Following her round of 16 finish at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, World No. 11 Iga Swiatek of Poland decided to stay behind in California and spent the week in Los Angeles working out at the University of Southern California and with its men’s tennis team.

What they’re sharing on social media

When in Courmayeur … / Jasmine Paolini and Liudmila Samsonova