Liudmila Samsonova begins her D.C. title defense with dominant, straight-set win

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Reigning women’s champ Liudmila Samsonova began the defense of her 2022 Mubadala Citi DC Open title in dominating fashion Monday.

The WTA world No. 18 made quick work of Danielle Collins, dispatching the University of Virginia alumna 6-1, 6-3 in the first match of the day at Rock Creek Park.

“Danielle is always tough to play against,” the Russian said of Collins, a known counter-puncher. “I was trying to push on my serve, to be focused on my serve. When she gave the chance on the return, also to push her there. I’m very happy to be solid on that part.”

Seeded eighth here, Samsonova used last year’s win as a springboard, picking up additional wins in Cleveland and Tokyo. A year later, if there’s any additional pressure that comes with that success, she wasn’t about to admit it — though she concedes that defending a title comes with a learning curve.

“I’m trying to manage the situation, to try to learn how to arrive to a tournament as a defending champion, how to manage all the situations,” Samsonova said. “So, for me, it’s everything quite new. I’m trying to do my best to enjoy, to have fun, and to play my best tennis.”

In other early play on Monday, former U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu jumped out to a one-set lead and had multiple opportunities to secure a first-round win against Marta Kostyuk. But the Ukrainian saved three match points in the third set on her way to to a 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 comeback.

The nearly three-hour match saw Kostyuk call for trainers in the second set, although the high temperatures in the upper 80s around the grounds were not as oppressive compared to the beginning of last year’s tournament.

The weather did cause one scary moment in a men’s match between Yibing Wu and Yosuke Watanuki. After winning a point to go up 4-1 in the first set on Court 5, Wu became limp and collapsed while returning to his chair. He was tended to by trainers and court staff but was forced to retire from the match. Wu had a similar incident earlier this month at Wimbledon but was able to return and complete that match.

The bulk of the men’s draw will get going on Tuesday. After a first-round bye, hometown favorite Frances Tiafoe will play in the first evening match against Aslan Karatsev at 7 p.m. His doubles partner this week, No. 4 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, begins his tournament in the afternoon on John Harris Court against American Michael Mmoh. The two won their first doubles match, 2-6, 7-6 (9), 10-7, over Chris Eubanks and Sebastian Korda.

At least eight different Americans will be in action on the three main show courts Tuesday, including Madison Keys, Ben Shelton, and 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, who received a wild card into the women’s draw.

Also among them is D.C. native Hailey Baptiste, who earned her spot via the qualifying tournament over the weekend. She will face world No. 23 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic at 4 p.m.

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