An Italian At Heart, Russia’s Samsonova Is Thriving In Courmayeur

Liudmila Samsonova (photo: Francesco Peluso/Courmayeur Ladies Open)

COURMAYEUR/WASHINGTON, October 30, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

No. 3 seed Liudmila Samsonova of Russia, the highest remaining seed at this week’s Courmayeur Ladies Open in the Italian Alps city of Courmayeur, has dominated her opponents en route to attaining her third semifinal of the season.

On Friday, Samsonova lit up the Forum Sports Center with her 57-minute 6-1, 6-2 victory over fellow Russian Anna Kalinskaya. The 42nd-ranked Samsonova, from Olenegorsk, north of the Arctic Circle – but who lived and trained in the Courmayeur area and played for Italy from 2014-18 – hit eight aces and won 86 percent (18 of 21) of her first-serve points and broke the 114th-ranked Kalinskaya six times during their quarterfinal match.

Samsonova, 22, has dropped just 12 games in garnering victories over qualifiers Stephanie Wagner of Germany and Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov of Spain plus Kalinskaya.

“The playing conditions are perfect for my tennis and I think you can see,” said Samsonova, who is fluent in Italian as well as English and Russian. “Today, my opponent was not 100 percent, but I had the merit of always remaining focused and I did not give her anything.”

Next, Samsonova, who earlier this season won her first career WTA title at Berlin on grass over Belinda Bencic and has also been a semifinalist at Luxembourg, will face No. 5 seed Clara Tauson of Denmark, in Saturday’s first semifinal (starting at 4 p.m. local time). They’ve faced each other once, earlier this season on green clay in Charleston, S.C., won by Tauson, 6-3, 6-3.

The 18-year-old Tauson, who is 9-1 in her last 10 hard-court matches, eliminated No. 9 seed Ann Li of the United States, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. It was the third time this season the Danish teenager, currently ranked 49th, has come back to win after dropping the first set.

Tauson was asked about her success this season in winning on indoor hard-court surfaces, where she’s captured titles at Lyon in March and Luxembourg in September, and has won eight straight indoor matches.

“I like playing indoors, it’s how I grew up in Denmark,” Tauson said during her on-court interview. “I just feel most comfortable indoors.”

In the other half of the draw, No. 7 seed Jasmine Paolini of Italy, ranked 56th, beat No. 10 seed Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, ranked 79th, 6-4, 7-6 (4) to advance to her second semifinal of the season and keep her home country’s hopes alive. She will face Donna Vekic of Croatia. The 97th-ranked Vekic defeated No. 110 Wang Xinyu of China, 6-4, 6-4. The Paolini-Vekic semifinal clash will follow the first semifinal.

Halep, Kontaveit advance; Raducanu loses in straight sets

Top seeds Simona Halep of Romania and Anett Kontaveit of Estonia both advanced to the semifinal round of the Transylvania Open in Cluj-Napoca, Romania with their respective quarterfinal wins on Friday.

However, No. 3 seed Emma Raducanu of Great Britain, ranked 23rd, was bounced in straight sets by No. 6 seed Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, 6-2, 6-1, in a battle of teenagers born in 2002 that lasted just 57 minutes.

“It was quick, but I couldn’t read her – if her ball is in, it’s really tough to do something,” Kostyuk said, quoted by the WTA website. “I was trying to put as many balls back as I could, and that’s it.”

In an all-Romanian clash, Halep lost just two games in beating 105th-ranked wild card Jaqueline Cristian, 6-1, 6-1, while Kontaveit advanced with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over No. 8 seed Angelina Kalinina of Ukraine, 6-3, 6-1.

Meanwhile, unseeded No. 99 Rebecca Peterson of Sweden reached the last four for the third time this season with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over 127th-ranked Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko. She overcame 51 unforced errors by hitting 20 winners and outpointed Tsurenko 89-75.

“I’m happy that I managed to pull out today’s match,” Peterson said during her on-court interview. She was up a set and a break, then recovered to pull out the three-set victory. “I felt like I lost my concentration when I was up 3-1 in the second [set]. I wasn’t as aggressive as I wanted to [be]. I’m happy I could turn it around.”

The 55th-ranked Kostyuk hit 12 winners and 16 unforced errors and benefited from Raducanu’s seven double faults and 41 unforced errors. Kostyuk outpointed her opponent 62-40 to set up a rematch with Halep, whom she lost to in the second round at Indian Wells last month.

“I put the fight in Indian Wells for one set and then I didn’t play well in the second set, not a big fight,” Kostyuk said. “So, I’m really hoping I can give as much fight as I can.”

The former World No. 1 Halep, who saved all three break points she faced, remained undefeated against Romanians and took advantage of Cristian’s 46 unforced errors. Halep outpointed Cristian 60-35.

Kontaveit, who has won 22 of her past 24 matches, needed just 62 minutes to beat No. 59 Kalinina to remain in the chase for the final spot at next month’s the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara. The World No. 14 needs to win the Transylvania Open title Sunday in order to overtake Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who is currently No. 8 in the Race To The WTA Finals.

Doubles field now set for Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara

On Thursday, the WTA confirmed the doubles field for this year’s Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara with the announcement of the final three pairings.

Alexa Guarachi of Chile and Desirae Krawczyk of the United States; Darija Jurak of Croatia and Andreja Klepac of Slovenia; and Sharon Fichman of Canada and Giuliana Olmos of Mexico all secured their places in the year-end finale.

With the pairings of No. 6 Coco Gauff and Caty McNally, both of the United States, and Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Luisa Stefani of Brazil also qualifying but not participating, it allowed for Fichman and Olmos to move up and be among the eight competing teams.

The other five teams who will compete for the WTA Finals Martina Navratilova Doubles Trophy include: Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, both of the Czech Republic; Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, both of Japan; Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan and Elise Mertens of Belgium; Nicole Melichar-Martinez of the United States and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands; and Samantha Stosur of Australia and Zhang Shuai of China.