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Samsonova Edges Badosa in Dubai Thriller

Liudmila Samsonova edged Paula Badosa in a three hour, 22-minute Dubai marathon match today. Photo credit: Getty for Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Blustery conditions were tricky, rallies were fierce, but Liudmila Samsonova was tougher.

Powered by pure grit and powerful strikes, Samsonova subdued Paula Badosa 6-7 (3), 7-6(6), 6-4 in an epic three hour, 22-minute Dubai thriller today.

In the last match of the afternoon session on Centre Court, Samsonova delivered battling performance in a marathon match to out-duel Dubai resident Badosa.

No. 14-seeded Samsonova dug deep to save set point on her own serve in game 10 with a drop volley and survived a further two set points.

After more than an hour’s play, the first set was decided in a tiebreaker, with Spaniard Badosa, cheered on by a vocal “home” crowd, recovering from 3-0 down to take seven straight points and seal the tiebreak.

In set two, Badosa broke her opponent to take a 4-3 lead, but Samsonova broke straight back, and the second set again went to a tiebreak.

This time, while Badosa raced into a 2-0 lead, it was Samsonova who recovered and claimed the tiebreak 8-6 to take the match to a deciding third set.

The pair collaborated on some pulsating rallies.

Continuing to fire her forehand with aggression, Samsonova took a decisive break of serve in game seven in the final set, then served out game 10 to seal a 6-7 (3), 7-6 (6), 6-4 victory after three hours and 22 minutes on court.

Samsonova smacked 12 aces and saved nine of 11 break points in a gritty victory.

“It was a pretty long match,” Samsonova said. “Paula is always really tough to play, she digs deep, so I’m glad that I was able to hang in until the end.

“I think I’m growing match-by-match. It’s a long journey and I hope to continue like that.”

Indeed, Samsonova has contested finals in four of her last 10 tournaments, including Abu Dhabi where she held championship points before bowing to Belinda Bencic 6-1, 6-7, 4-6.

Samsonova defeated Qinwen Zheng in a three-set Abu Dhabi semifinal earlier this month. The pair will square off again in Dubai.

In an all-Chinese opener, Zheng won 18 of 20 first-serve points sweeping Shuai Zhang 6-3, 6-1.

Canadian left-hander Leylah Fernandez fought off 90th-ranked Austrian Julia Grabher 6-4, 6-2. The 2021 US Open finalist’s reward for her first-round win is a meeting with world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

Opening proceedings on the emirate’s Centre Court, Madison Keys crushed Jasmine Paolini 6-1, 6-1.

World No. 23 Keys showed flashes of the form that once saw her rise as high as World No.7, secure six WTA singles titles, and reach the final of the 2017 US Open.

Making her second appearance in Dubai’s annual WTA 1000 event, Keys broke Paolini’s serve in the second game of the match and never looked back, taking the first set 6-1.

The second set followed a similar pattern, with Keys breaking serve early and racing through the remainder of the set, before serving out with ace to seal a 6-1, 6-1 victory and setting up a second-round match with fourth-seeded CarolineGarcia, the reigning WTA Finals champion.

“I was little nervous at the beginning, but I got off to a really good start and never looked back,” said Keys. “It’s good to get that first win, so we can now look forward.”

Keys carries a 3-1 career record vs. Garcia into their showdown, but said this is a more dangerous version of Garcia than we’ve seen.

“She’s a really tough opponent and it’s always a really good match against her, so I’m really looking forward to it,” Keys said.