Wimbledon ban a blessing in disguise for in-form Samsonova, who’s firing on all cylinders

Liudmila Samsonova of Russia poses with the champions trophy after defeating Qinwen Zheng of China in the final match on Day 7 of the Toray Pan...

Currently at a career-high ranking at world no. 22, the 23-year-old Russian has won 18 of her last 19 matches on tour – seizing titles in Washington, Cleveland and most recently Tokyo just last week. She attributed the divisive Wimbledon ban of Russian and Belarusian players as a key training block helping her form drastically improve of late. Can she sustain it long-term?

Samsonova’s superb surge continues

Liudmila Samsonova of Russia celebrates defeating Qinwen Zheng of China in the final match on Day 7 of the Toray Pan Pacific Open at Ariake Coliseum...

Samsonova celebrates after her straight-sets win – far from straightforward – in last Sunday’s final

Having beaten Chinese teenage talent Qinwen Zheng 7-5, 7-5 last Sunday to secure another WTA singles title, Samsonova spoke about the shock of the Wimbledon ban and turned it into a positive, utilising a rare month off in the season working relentlessly to practice and improve.

It was the second successive tournament triumph where she hasn’t dropped a set either, though cynics will suggest these statistics are bloated by not playing top players consistently during her recent run, beating Zheng’s compatriots Xinyu Wang and Shuai Zhang en route to the final.

However, she also scored straight-set victories over Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and two-time Slam titlist Garbine Muguruza in the Japanese capital too last month. Her form is no accident or coincidence, though it’ll be interesting to see how she finishes the season off.

As quoted by tennis365.com, she had this to say about a sudden training block opening up before overcoming the mental fatigue as their final got close:

“I said, OK, I have one month without tournaments, so let’s work. I used it so well because I was working so hard, 32 days of just practising, which is not normal at that time of the year for a tennis player.

I was feeling great physically but a little bit tired mentally. I’m very happy how I managed with the pressure – it’s unbelievable what I did. All the week was really impressive and I’m really happy about my game.”


Zheng acquitted herself well and knows more is to come

Zheng Qinwen of China plays in the Singles final match against Ludmilla Samsonova of Russia during day seven of the Toray Pan Pacific Open at Ariake...

Zheng, who celebrates her 20th birthday next month, will be heartened by her recent progress

Zheng, who knocked out top seed Paula Badosa in R2, has continued her own impressive rise too. Ranked outside the world’s top 150 twelve months ago, the Chinese – who turns 20 on August 8 – made her first WTA final appearance and couldn’t have faced a more in-form player.

She recovered from a set down to outlast Samsonova’s compatriot Veronika Kudermetova 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) in the semi-finals, but ran out of steam in the closing stages of both sets in the finale.

“This week has been really good and I had a good performance but I think I can do a lot more than this. This was an experience – my first time arriving in a final – I just hope next time I can come back stronger and better.”

Those comments are encouraging to hear from her, especially given some impressive displays against top players since the French Open in late May.

She beat Simona Halep and Alize Cornet before threatening a scare against eventual champion Iga Swiatek in R4, overwhelmed 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in Toronto after a spirited San Jose defeat by Naomi Osaka and should hold her head high.

Speaking of Osaka, who withdrew with an abdominal injury, the 24-year-old was one of multiple big names who departed early in Tokyo. US Open semi-finalist Caroline Garcia, the aforementioned Badosa and Karolina Pliskova all suffered second-round losses.

Picture source: Getty Images

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