Liudmila Samsonova tops Kaia Kanepi to win Citi Open for second career WTA title

WASHINGTON — Liudmila Samsonova hit 10 aces and won her second career WTA title by coming back to beat sixth-seeded Kaia Kanepi 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 at the Citi Open on Sunday.

Samsonova is a 23-year-old Russian currently ranked 60th after needing to sit out part of the season, including Wimbledon, because of her country’s invasion of Ukraine. She used a powerful serve that reached 119 mph against Kanepi to power through the bracket at the hard-court tournament, including a victory over reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.

Samsonova’s other championship came last year at a grass-court tournament in Berlin. Kanepi, a 37-year-old from Estonia, was seeking her fifth trophy and first since 2013. She faded on Sunday after taking the first set and left the court for a medical timeout late in the second set during a five-game run for Samsonova.

When Samsonova delivered an ace at 113 mph to hold for 4-all, the match was 25 minutes old, and neither player had generated a break point. By the end, Samsonova had won 35 of 43 first-serve points.

This was big-serve, quick-strike tennis between a pair of women with similar playing styles on a humid, 90-degree afternoon not all that conducive to lengthy exchanges or a lot of running. Some spectators held umbrellas to provide shade; portable electric fans were placed next to sideline seats to offer a bit of respite to Kanepi and Samsanova during changeovers.

Kanepi finally found an opening and barged through while ahead 5-4 at the outset. Right after smacking a 119 mph ace, Samsonova gifted two unforced errors off backhands — one into the net, the other wide — to offer up the match’s initial break point and, as it happened, a set point. Kanepi handled the ensuing 117 mph serve, sending it deep and rushing Samsonova, whose wild forehand ended that set.

In the second, Kanepi got a chance to go up a break at 3-2, but Samsonova saved that with a 107 mph service winner, tacked on a 119 mph service winner and ended up holding. Then Samsonova earned her first break opportunity of the match, an hour in, when Kanepi dumped a forehand into the net. Samsonova converted it and went ahead 4-3 when Kanepi sailed a backhand long.

Kanepi’s mistakes kept mounting and, suddenly, the second set belonged to Samsonova. Helped by a double-fault, Samsonova broke to lead 5-3 in the third, then served it out.

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