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Samsonova to Play Swiatek in Beijing Final

Iga Swiatek of Poland snapped Coco Gauff’s 16-match winning streak and will face Liudmila Samsonova for the Beijing title. Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images

Grand Slam champions pose tennis tests even for experienced players.

Liudmila Samsonova continues acing all exams in Beijing.

A sharp Samsonova saved a set point defeating Elena Rybakina 7-6(7), 6-3 to take down another major champion and charge into her third final of the season at the China Open.

In a battle of two of the biggest servers on the WTA Tour, Samsonova thumped her first serve to set up a scalding first strike. Samsonova struck 26 more winners than Rybakina—33 to 7—defeating the 2022 Wimbledon champion for the fourth time in as many meetings.

“Every time it’s a battle with Elena, so 3-0 does not mean anything for me because she’s a champion,” Samsonova said afterward. “Every time we have so many battles, really close, so it’s unbelievable to be here [in the final].”

The unseeded—and sometimes overlooked—Samsonova is making believers of both opponents and fans.

This was Samsonova’s third win over a Grand Slam champion this week following her 6-4, 7-5 triumph over two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova in the second round and a 6-3, 6-2 sweep of 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko yesterday.

Today, Samsonova smacked 7 aces, saved 2 of 3 break points and controlled the center of the court at crunch time.

Spreading the court beautifully with her inside-out and inside-in forehands, Samsonova kept the ball moving corner to corner forcing Rybakina to counter on the run at times.

Three of Samsonova’s four wins over Rybakina have come in Masters 1000 events, including a 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 triumph in the Montreal semifinals in August.

This win propels Samsonova into her second Masters 1000 final of the season where she will face four-time Grand Slam champion Iga Swiatek.

In today’s first semifinal, former world No. 1 Swiatek slammed Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-3 in 80 minutes.

Reigning Roland Garros champion Swiatek served 75 percent, won 26 of 30 first-serve points and did not face a single break point snapping the US Open champion’s 16-match winning streak. Swiatek stopped Gauff for the eighth time in nine meetings.

World No. 2 Swiatek is 2-0 vs. Samsonova, including a 6-1, 6-0 thrashing in the Dubai round of 16 earlier this season.

Playing for her fifth career title tomorrow, Samsonova aims to accelerate on the learning curve.

“I think I’m here to learn,” Samsonova said. “[Iga] achieved so many things already in life, she’s so young. I think it’s a test for me to see where my level is.”

The second-seeded Swiatek has delivered first-rate serving performance improving to a WTA-best 62-11 on the season as she plays for her fifth title of 2023.

“Well, for sure at this tournament I feel like I’m serving better,” Swiatek said. “I had matches during this season where I felt like, yeah, I was serving great, and I wish I had that kind of form in terms of my serve every match. It was up and down.

“On the other hand I knew these positive matches meant that I can serve well and I can serve better. Yeah, I am practicing a lot my first serve. For sure on this tournament, yeah, it’s working. I don’t know exactly why. I’m trying to serve the best way possible in every tournament.”

Both Rybakina, who was coming off a hard-fought win over world No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka in the quarterfinals, and Samsonova served with control at the outset.

Wearing all white, Samsonova scored the first break to go up 5-4 and served for the first set only to see Rybakina break back at love.

The Australian Open finalist saved a break point holding for 6-5 and shifting stress right on Samsonova’s shoulders. Samsonova saved a set point in the 12th game holding to force the tiebreaker.

Taking the initiative in the tiebreaker, Samsonova earned set point at 6-5, but netted a return. A slick backhand return winner down the line gave her a second set point, but Rybakina ripped a forehand to save it.

Sliding the wide serve to displace her opponent, Samsonova belted a backhand winner down the line for a third set point. This time, a crackling Samsonova forehand closed the set.

Samsonova struck 20 more winners—23 to 3—in that tense 65-minute opener.

Swinging freely and making Ryabkina work, Samsonova held at 15 to go up 4-3 in the second set.

An increasingly weary Rybakina spit up three of her four double faults in the eighth game, including two in a row to cede serve and a 5-3 lead.

That was the only break Samsonova needed as she slammed successive aces to open the ninth game and served out the match at love.