Tennis-Samsonova shines in Tokyo for third title in two months

Tennis - Pan Pacific Open - Women's Singles - Ariake Coliseum, Tokyo, Japan - September 25, 2022. Russia's Liudmila Samsonova reacts after winning against China's Zheng Qinwen during their final match. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

(Reuters) - Liudmila Samsonova improved her unblemished record in tennis finals to 4-0 by defeating Chinese teenager Zheng Qinwen 7-5 7-5 at the Pan Pacific Open on Sunday, continuing her incredible hardcourt run to lift her third title in two months.

It was the 18th win in her last 19 matches for the 23-year-old Russian with the only defeat since July coming against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in the fourth round of the U.S. Open this month.

World number 30 Samsonova won consecutive titles in Washington and Cleveland in the run-up to the hardcourt Grand Slam in New York and she is projected to reach a career-high ranking just outside the top 20 on Monday.

"It's amazing, I don't have too many words right now. I need little bit of time," Samsonova said on court, having won all four Tour-level championship matches she has reached.

"It was a really tough match. She is playing amazing. It was a nervous match, we were fighting every point. It was tough."

With Sunday's win Samsonova capped a strong week at the WTA 500 event, having not dropped a set all week and with victories over Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and multiple major winner Garbine Muguruza during the tournament.

In a baseline battle of powerful groundtsrokes, both Samsonova and Zheng, who was playing her first Tour-level final, served strongly before the 19-year-old committed her first double-fault to allow her opponent a breakpoint opportunity.

The Russian calmly converted her chance and then comfortably held her delivery to take the first set.

After a trade of service breaks in the second set, Samsonova once again breached Zheng's delivery in the 11th game and then held serve to love, converting her first matchpoint when her opponent failed to keep a backhand return inside the line.

"I played a high level in all my five matches. I am incredibly happy about how I managed it," Samsonova added.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by William Mallard)

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