Kanepi, Samson’s steamroll into Washington final

Two of the WTA’s power hitters, Kaia Kanepi and Liudmila Samsonova, set up an eye-catching Citi Open final with comprehensive semifinal wins on Saturday.

In the day’s first semifinal, No.6 seed Kanepi stormed into her first final of the year with a 6-3, 6-1 dismissal of Daria Saville. World No.37 Kanepi, the only seeded player to reach the final four in Washington this week, took 1 hour and 13 minutes to charge past Saville.

Kanepi is in a final for the first time since Melbourne’s Gippsland Trophy in February of last year. She is now one win away from her fifth career title, and it would be her first trophy since winning in Brussels in 2013.

Making her Citi Open tournament debut this week, former Top 15 player Kanepi executed a blistering display of pristine power tennis on Saturday, ending the match with 18 winners to just five unforced errors. Kanepi won 80 percent of her first-serve points to sweep past Saville.

In spite of the loss, former Top 20 player Saville has mounted a superb comeback after Achilles tendon surgery in February of 2021. This year, she has risen from a low of No.627 in February to her current position of No.88 in just six months.

On Saturday, Saville clutched her lower back during the 4-2 game and took a mid-game medical time-out, but the Australian returned to the court and continued playing.

However, Kanepi used her thumping groundstrokes to hit lines with precision throughout the remainder of the match, and she won eight of the last nine games to book her spot in the final.

“I think I played my best match today,” Kanepi said in her post-match press conference. “Everything was very smooth for me. I think I hit a lot of lines. It’s tough to do it every day, so I think today was a good day for me.”

Kanepi has won 19 matches this season, which is already her highest match-win total since 2013. The 37-year-old veteran made the elite eight at the Australian Open this year and has now reached the quarterfinals at all four Grand Slam events in game career.

The second semifinal was even quicker as World No.60 Samson swept past 95th-ranked lucky loser Wang Xiyu 6-1, 6-1 in 67 minutes. Samsonova is in her second career final, having won the title on the grass courts of Berlin as a qualifier last year.

Like Kanepi, Samsonova also showed off her big-hitting game to its best effect on Saturday, with 17 winners to only five unforced errors. Wang, who was playing in her second career WTA semifinal, matched Samsonova with four aces, but she was undone by 16 unforced errors.

Highlights: Samson’s def. Wang

Samsonova never faced a break point until the very last game, after she saw two match points erased by Wang. However, Samsonova saved that break point with a forehand winner, and she used that same shot to force an error from Wang on her third match point.

Samsonova has a 1-0 head-to-head lead over Kanepi, having triumphed in their first-round match at Wimbledon last year.

More to come…

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