Russian tennis players collect 3 titles in US Open tune-ups

By HOWARD FENDRICH
AP Tennis Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s been quite a week for Russian professional tennis players — four tournaments, three titles.

One of them, Liudmila Samsonova, thinks it might not be a mere coincidence that this recent string of success for her, Daria Kasatkina and Daniil Medvedev comes shortly after they were banned from competition. at Wimbledon due to the invasion of their country and the ongoing war in , Ukraine.

“We are all very angry about the situation,” Samsonova said after beating Estonian Kaia Kanepi 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in Sunday’s Citi Open final for her second career WTA title. “I mean, it’s been a really tough month.”

Samsonova lifted her trophy in Washington a day after Medvedev, who leads the men’s rankings, defeated Britain’s Cam Norrie for the championship in Los Cabos, Mexico, and hours before Kasatkina won the title in San Jose, Mexico. California, with a win over American Shelby. Rogers. All three events are hard-court tune-ups ahead of the final Grand Slam tournament of the year, the US Open, which kicks off in New York on August 29; Medvedev is the defending champion there. (The fourth title of the week, the Citi Open men’s event, was won by Australian Nick Kyrgios; a Russian, Andrey Rublev, reached the semi-finals).

At the previous Grand Slam event, Wimbledon, which ran from late June to July, all athletes from Russia and Belarus were barred by the All England Club from participating due to the attack on Ukraine. This prompted the WTA and ATP professional tours to withhold tournament ranking points, meaning anything won there in 2021 fell on a player’s record and could not be replaced by the tournament. how he fared this year.

“It’s been a great week for us. I wouldn’t say that Wimbledon has (given) us a lot of motivation, because we want to win these tournaments and these matches anyway. I think it happened that in that week three Russian players won titles. It doesn’t happen very often, let’s say,” said Kasatkina, who called for an end to the fighting in Ukraine. “I think it’s just a coincidence. It shows that we are at a good level.

When Samsonova arrived in Washington a week ago, her ranking had risen from a career-high 25th in May to 60th. And she hadn’t played a match on tour since June.

She used that time to travel to her training base in Italy and work on her game – and on herself.

She started collaborating with a mental coach (“I can’t thank her enough,” Samsonova said on Sunday). She looked to improve her forehand, serve and return, which paid off in a victory over defending US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the quarterfinals and Kanepi in the final.

Asked about Wimbledon on Sunday and the results she and other Russians have produced this week, Samsonova said: “We (had) a lot of time to work with, so I think we (used) it very well. “

Until a few weeks ago, she wasn’t sure if she could play in Washington. Indeed, her visa was due to expire in July and she was told that there might not be enough time to complete the renewal application process.

That could have meant missing not only the Citi Open, but also other tournaments in the country, possibly including the US Open. (Unlike the All England Club, the US Tennis Association has announced that it will allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to participate in the draws).

Luckily, Samsonova said, it worked out otherwise she could have returned to Europe to play in lower tier events.

“I really don’t know” what would have happened, she admitted.

The paperwork arrived, Samsonova arrived in Washington, and on Sunday night she was thinking about something Medvedev and Kasatkina could have been too: what’s the right way to celebrate?

“Of course,” said Samsonova, 23, “a few drinks.”

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AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Jose, Calif., contributed.

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