TennisSection previews the 2023 Abu Dhabi Open as Qinwen Zheng takes on Ludmilla Samsonova in the semifinal on Saturday, February 11, 2023.
Qinwen Zheng could be the biggest WTA star from China since Li Na. The 20-year-old is harnessing her reputation at the Abu Dhabi Open with some terrific wins. Can she score another when she faces Ludmilla Samsonova and advance into her second WTA final?
Qinwen Zheng registered her third career Top-10 win on Friday, as she thrashed top seed Daria Kasatkina 6-1 6-2 in just 78 minutes. The result continues an upward trend for Zheng who is now two spots away from overtaking Zhang Shuai as the country’s No. 1 ranked player. Zheng is in her second WTA semifinal at 500 level. The last time she reached the final it was Ludmilla Samsonova who denied her ultimate glory in Tokyo. So could she avenge that loss against the Russian this time at the Abu Dhabi Open?
Ludmilla Samsonova was in red-hot form in the second half of last season, taking home three titles in two months. One of those included a straight sets win over Qinwen Zheng in the Tokyo final. Samsonova had had to dig deep at the Abu Dhabi Open, rallying from a set down to win her opening match against Claire Liu. Then she survived a nail-biter against Barbora Krejcikova (the Czech served for the first set), winning that one 7-6 7-5. But her quarterfinal win against doubles partner Veronika Kudermetova was inarguably her best display of the week.
Qinwen Zheng and Ludmilla Samsonova are currently tied at 1-1 in their head-to-head. Zheng won on the clay of Palermo two years ago, but Samsonova won their biggest match in their rivalry in the Tokyo final last autumn. The Russian was in scintillating form in the second half of last season, producing the second-best winning streak in 2023. I feel the penny has dropped for Zheng. She now knows what it takes to win these big matches. Her composure is admirable for someone so young and her mental fortitude gives her the confidence that she can beat anybody. It’s been a great week for both of these two players, and we think Zheng will solve the Samsonova riddle in this one.
Free Tennis Prediction and Pick: Qinwen Zheng in 3 sets
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