Kyrgios wins Citi Open again; Samsonova takes women’s title

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WASHINGTON — As Nick Kyrgios rambled through a lengthy list of people he wanted to thank after ending a three-year title drought by claiming the trophy at the site of his last triumph, the Citi Open, he made a mention of the match officials.

Then, catching himself, the Wimbledon runner-up added with a knowing smile: “The relationship’s still rocky with the umpires.”

Kyrgios extended the best stretch of his career and gave another performance that will make him someone to take seriously at the U.S. Open, saving the only break point he faced in the final along the way to a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Yoshihito Nishioka at the Citi Open.

“I feel like my motivation is a lot higher than it used to be. … There is a small window; I should capitalize on it,” said Kyrgios, who dropped to his back on the blue court when the match ended, then headed back out into that stadium in the evening to team with Jack Sock for a doubles trophy, too, defeating French Open finalists Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek 7-5, 6-4.

“I don’t care about what people say about my tennis, like, `Always disrespectful to the sport,’ all this, all that,” said Kyrgios, the first man to win Washington’s singles and doubles events in the same year. “I know that, deep down, I try really hard to do it my own way. I know that I inspire millions of people, and I’m just playing for them.”

Earlier Sunday, Liudmila Samsonova won her second career WTA title by coming back to beat sixth-seeded Kaia Kanepi 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the Citi Open women’s final.

Kyrgios’ seventh career tour-level singles championship came where his sixth did in 2019 – on the hard courts of the American capital in a tuneup for Flushing Meadows.

As usual when Kyrgios is on his game, the serve led the way: He hit 12 aces and won 22 of 25 first-serve points. He won all nine of his service games against Nishioka, making him 64 for 64 in the tournament, wrapping up the week by saving all 10 of his opponents’ break points. The only one Kyrgios had to deal with came at 3-2 in the first set, and Kyrgios dismissed it via a volley winner.

“I couldn’t figure out his service game,” said Nishioka, who ranked Kyrgios No. 1 on tour in that category and also praised the 27-year-old Australian for being “more focused” than earlier in his career.

Kyrgios managed to break Japan’s Nishioka, who is ranked 96th and eliminated top-seeded Andrey Rublev in the semifinals, three times – in the opening game of each set and again in the match’s final game.

This marks quite a bit of unusual consistency for Kyrgios, coming off a run to his first Grand Slam final at the All England Club, where he lost to Novak Djokovic. Kyrgios did not get any rankings points for that showing – there were no points awarded to anyone at Wimbledon – but the singles title in Washington will push him from 63rd to 37th, within shouting range of a possible seeding at the U.S. Open.

“Hopefully,” Kyrgios said, “I can keep this momentum going.”

Play begins at Flushing Meadows on Aug. 29. That is less than a week after a court hearing in Australia is scheduled for a common assault allegation against Kyrgios.

Samsonova is a 23-year-old Russian who reached a career-best ranking of 25th in May but is currently 60th after needing to sit out part of the season, including Wimbledon, because of her country’s attack on Ukraine. She used a powerful serve that reached 119 mph against Kanepi to make her way through the bracket at the hard-court tournament, including a victory over reigning U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu.

Samsonova’s other championship came last year at a grass-court tournament in Berlin. Kanepi, a 37-year-old from Estonia, was seeking her first trophy since 2013. She left the court for a medical timeout in the third set because of what she said was an abdominal muscle problem.

“I guess a lot of matches and a lot of serving this week,” Kanepi said.

Kyrgios’ victory was shown on Tennis Channel, which shunted the women’s final off its main station and instead aired pickleball – because, tournament chairman Mark Ein said, of a prior commitment.

This was big-serve, quick-strike tennis between a pair of women with similar playing styles on a humid, 90-degree Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) afternoon. Some spectators held umbrellas to provide shade; portable electric fans were placed next to sideline seats to offer a bit of respite to the players during changeovers; Samsonova held a plastic bag filled with ice atop her head.

Sonego beats Bublik at Moselle Open to win 1st title of 2022

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METZ, France – Lorenzo Sonego clinched his first title of the season by beating Alexander Bublik 7-6 (3), 6-2 in the Moselle Open final on Sunday.

The 27-year-old Italian did not drop a set all tournament as he won the third title of his career and first on hard courts.

The unseeded Sonego recovered from 0-40 down in the fifth game of the match and secured victory when the seventh-seeded Bublik sent a backhand return long.

He then danced on court as he celebrated a perfect tournament where he also beat defending champion Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals.

Sonego’s win will move him up 21 places in the ATP rankings and into 44th place.

Samsonova beats Zheng to win 3rd WTA title in 2 months

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TOKYO – Liudmila Samsonova of Russia extended a remarkable summer run by clinching her third title in two months after beating rising Chinese player Zheng Qinwen 7-5, 7-5 at the Toray Pan Pacific Open on Sunday.

No. 30-ranked Samsonova won in Washington and Cleveland in August and also reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open. The 23-year-old has now won 18 of her last 19 matches and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo.

“It’s amazing. I think I need a little bit of time to realize it, but it’s unbelievable,” Samsonova said. “It was like a nervous match today. I was really prepared physically but I was tired mentally because I was playing singles and doubles every day. I’m very happy with the way I managed the pressure.”

Samsonova added that the exclusion of Russian players from Wimbledon had helped her game though she stopped short of supporting the move.

“Wimbledon for me is the best tournament. I love it. The news really impacted me. I had one month without a tournament so I thought let’s work,” she said, adding: “I don’t agree that politics should be involved in sports because it’s unfair.”

The match between two power hitters with big serves was close throughout but Samsonova was striking the ball cleaner and stronger.

Zheng, who ousted top-seeded Paula Badosa and No. 4-seeded Veronika Kudermetova, was broken in the first set after giving up her first double fault on deuce in the 11th game.

Samsonova, who defeated Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the first round and former world No. 1 Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals, then sent a perfect forehand that landed in the right-hand corner of the court to break the 19-year-old and go 6-5 up. She took the first set with another strong service game that included her third ace.

Zheng was the first to crack in the second set when she handed Samsonova free points with two double-faults in the fifth game. A double-fault by the Russian saw her drop to 0-40 in the next game and the No. 36-ranked Chinese broke back to level at 3-3.

As in the first set, Zheng was broken in the 11th game. A long forehand at deuce gave Samsonova a breakpoint and she converted it with a crosscourt forehand that sent her opponent the wrong way. Samsonova then won her next game to love after three errors by Zheng, clinching the match 7-5, 7-5.

Samsonova has now won all of the finals she has appeared in.

In reaching the final, Zheng became the youngest Chinese finalist at a tour-level event, beating the mark set by Peng Shuai.