Iga Swiatek hailed a “really big” victory after she delivered a dominant performance to win the China Open on Sunday, beating surprise package Liudmila Samsonova in straight sets to crown a resurgent run of form.
The world number two triumphed 6-2, 6-2 in Beijing to take the first China Open women’s title since the pandemic, after Beijing lifted its isolationist zero-Covid policy.
The victory capped a strong showing for four-time Grand Slam champion Swiatek, who was deposed as the world’s top-ranked player by Aryna Sabalenka last month.
The 22-year-old broke Samsonova’s serve in the sixth game and sealed the opening set when the unseeded Russian slammed a forehand into the net.
Swiatek looked assured throughout and quickly notched another break in set two when her error-prone opponent fired another forehand wide.
And when Samsonova sent an ill-advised drop-shot into the net to hand her the victory, the Pole doubled over with emotion before a delighted crowd.
“For sure, this is really big for me. Winning this title is something I never would have thought at the beginning of the tournament,” Swiatek said at a post-match news conference.
“(It) will give me confidence... that there’s always a chance to overcome and work on what you do or what you’re feeling,” she said.
“You can always get better and sometimes it’s pretty easy, but we pretend to make it more complicated in our heads,” she added.
“I’m really happy that I just focused on hard work and it paid off -- maybe not instantly, but I’m happy that after the US Open, I just got back to basics and just worked really hard tennis-wise.”
‘She doesn’t make errors’
Swiatek was the favourite to win the final after handing US Open champion Coco Gauff her first defeat in 17 matches in the final four on Saturday.
Sabalenka had been knocked out in the quarter-finals by fifth-ranked Elena Rybakina, who was in turn dumped out by Samsonova in the other semi-final.
Ranked 22nd, Samsonova had racked up a string of impressive victories against higher-ranked players but the result of Sunday’s final rarely looked in doubt.
The 24-year-old said after the match that Swiatek’s sheer consistency -- she barely made a mistake of note -- had been a source of “stress”.
“This is the stress that she (puts on) other players, that she doesn’t make unforced errors,” Samsonova said.
“Every time, you need to do something more... It’s not real, what you feel, but she makes you feel like this,” she added.
“Me, I was playing some points very well, and others a disaster. That was the difference, I think.”
First in four years
The match brought to a close the first China Open since 2019 after Beijing lifted onerous travel restrictions that formed part of a longtime policy to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
It was also the first time the women’s tournament had taken place since the international governing body announced the end of an embargo imposed on China following sexual assault allegations by former player Peng Shuai.
The Women’s Tennis Association had withdrawn from the country after Peng accused a top Communist Party official of forcing her into sex, but the overlap with Beijing’s zero-Covid strategy meant its ban was largely symbolic.
The men’s tournament wrapped up on Wednesday when Italy’s Jannik Sinner beat world number three Daniil Medvedev to take the trophy.
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