Tennis

Cleveland | Samsonova bags her 2nd straight title

Russian Liudmila Samsonova won her second straight WTA Tour title, beating 7th-seeded Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus, 6-1 6-3, in the championship match at Tennis in the Land presented by motorola edge in Cleveland, Ohio, on Saturday.

“It’s unbelievable to win two titles in a row for me here in the United States,” said Samsonova, who took 2 weeks off after winning Washington DC. “I didn’t expect it.

“I like so much to play here because the surface is pretty fast, I love it. It was helping me in tough situations.”

Samsonova went on a similar tear last summer, when she won her 1st career title on the grass courts of Berlin as a qualifier, then reached the Round of 16 at Wimbledon as a wild-card.

Since then, she has proven that her power game translates to all surfaces, not just grass.

A big-hitter now ranked No 45 in the world, Samsonova did not drop a set in 5 matches at the WTA 250 US Open tune-up event, having also claimed the Citi Open crown in Washington 3 weeks ago, and now heads to New York on a career-best 10-match winning streak.

Meanwhile, World No 36 Sasnovich was seeking her first WTA title but never held the lead in the 72-minute final on the stadium court at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, as Samsonova broke her in all 4 service games in the opening set.

“I’m a little bit sad right now, but I’m happy for Liuda, who is going to be top 10 soon, I hope,” said Sasnovich, who is 0-4 in her career finals. “She is so humble, educated and a kind person.

“I tried to do my best, but Liuda was better today.”

Liudmila Samsonova outpaced Aliaksandra Sasnovich in Cleveland

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Unseeded, Samsonova displayed precision shot-making on back-to-back days, having ended Bernarda Pera’s 13-match win streak in just 53 minutes in the semi-finals, winning 32 of her 36 service points against the American, and then converting 31 of 46 against Sasnovich.

Samsonova wrapped up her 3rd career title with a baseline backhand that caught the tape and fell softly in front of a charging Sasnovich, the 23-year-old needing 1 hour and 12 minutes to beat the 7th seed.

The only mis-step Samsonova made was dropping her opening service game of the match, but she claimed the next 5 games to take the one-set lead, striking 11 winners to just 3 unforced errors on the way.

She kept up her momentum in the second, jumping out to a 5-2 lead, where she held her first championship point, which Sasnovich erased with a wicked backhand slice winner, before the Belarusian eventually held for 5-3.

Samsonova stayed solid, though, and she wrapped up the win on her 2nd championship point after a backhand clipped the net-cord and forced one last error from Sasnovich.

Both players are listed as individuals by the WTA, which has suspended recognition of the Russian and Belarus tennis federations following their nations’ invasion of Ukraine.

“We were both without the flag this week, so I want to give very big congratulations to Sasha and her team,” Sasnovich said. “We heard you fans so, so loud through the week. Thank you. I hope to be back next year.”

Samsonova joins World No 1 Iga Swiatek (6), Caroline Garcia (3), Simona Halep, Beatriz Haddad Maia, Ons Jabeur and Bernarda Pera (2 each) as the players who have won multiple singles titles in 2022, with Daria Kasatkina also being added to that list later on Saturday, with her 2nd title of the year in Granby.

The 23-year-old Russian will begin her US Open campaign against 16-year-old Sara Bejlek of the Czech Republic, who beat Britain’s Heather Watson in the final round of qualifying in New York on Friday.

“I think [the US Open is] going to be a different tournament because the conditions are different there,” said Samsonova, who was knocked out in the 2nd-round of the hard court major last year. “But of course, I played five matches here, so I think they helped me.”

Sasnovich will meet qualifier Elisabetta Cocciaretto from Italy in the US Open first round.

Ellen Perez (L) & Nicole Melichar-Martinez lifted the WTA 250 doubles title in Cleveland

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No 2 seeds, American Nicole Melichar-Martinez & Ellen Perez of Australia captured the doubles title, 7-5 6-3, over 4th-seeded Kazakh Anna Danilina & Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia.

Melichar-Martinez & Perez, who finished as runner-up in Toronto and Cincinnati, had to grab two victories on Saturday before capturing their first team title together.

Earlier in the day, Melichar-Martinez & Perez polished off their interrupted semi-final match over Japan’s Shuko Aoyama and Chan Hao-ching from Taipei, the 3rd seeds, in straight sets as well, 6-1 7-6(0).

The match was suspended due to a power outage on Friday with Melichar-Martinez & Perez holding 6 match points in the 2nd-set tiebreak and, on resumption on Saturday, they only needed to play a single point to advance to their 3rd consecutive final as a team.

Over these 3 weeks, Melichar-Martinez & Perez have seen their form skyrocket, reaching back-to-back WTA 1000 finals in Toronto and Cincinnati and winning the doubles trophy in Cleveland, which marks the 12th WTA doubles title for the American, while the Aussie has now won 5 WTA doubles titles in her career.

Melichar-Martinez & Perez have won 12 of their past 14 matches, making them one of the most in-form teams heading into next week’s US Open championships.

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