Liudmila Samsonova's breakthrough 2022 is still surging in the final days of the regular season. The World No.22 notched the first Top 5 victory of her career Wednesday at the Guadalajara Open Akron with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 triumph over No.2 seed and World No.4 Aryna Sabalenka.
Sabalenka's defeat means that both Coco Gauff and Caroline Garcia qualify for the singles field in Fort Worth. Sabalenka has not been eliminated from the Race to the WTA Finals and currently holds a qualifying spot, but she will now sits on the sidelines to see if her point total holds up against a chasing field.
Samosnova's 2-hour, 14-minute win was her 20th in her past 22 matches and the third Top 10 victory of her career. She broke Sabalenka's serve four times, hit 21 winners and landed nearly 70% of her first serves in victory.
"I think we played an amazing match today. It's very tough to play against Aryna," Samsonova said. "For me, she's an amazing player. I step on the court and try to do my best, and today was my day.
"I'm incredibly happy. It's amazing what I'm doing the last three months of this year. It's unbelievable. I'm trying to keep focused until the end."
After winning four straight games to take command of the opening set, Samsonova had to regroup when she was broken for the first time when she served for it at 5-2. That mentality also helped her in the third set. After Sabalenka rolled through the middle set by winning five of the last six games, Samsonova broke to start the third and never looked back.
The strategy was simple, she said.
"I tried to play more aggressive on my first serve, to put in it first, and to try to play aggressive on my second serve and return. That was my goal."
A crucial fourth game might've helped Samsonova saved the match. She dug out of 0-40, eventually saving four break points total, for a hold to lead 3-1. Buoyed by that effort, she broke Sabalenka again in the next game.
Her long road to qualify for the year-end championships will continue next against either Marie Bouzkova or Camila Osorio.
Collins, Ostapenko stay the course
Danielle Collins and Jelena Ostapenko are both still alive with outside chances to make the elite eight, and each took the next step toward that goal with Round 2 wins. Collins was a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Polish qualifier Magdalena Frech, while Ostapenko overcame a mid-match blip to defeat a resurgent Eugenie Bouchard, 7-5, 2-6, 6-1.
Ostapenko also rallied from an early deficit in her first meeting against the 2014 Wimbledon finalist. Bouchard led 4-1 in the opener, and served for the set at 5-4. However, the Canadian never reached set point. Ostapenko won the last four games, and 10 of the final 11 points.
No.14 Collins is the next foe for No.4 seed Maria Sakkari, who moved into Finals contention with an emotional win against Marta Kostyuk on Tuesday night.
No.12 seed Ostapenko, meanwhile, will next face No.8 seed Veronika Kudermetova or Donna Vekic. This section of the draw has heavy implications for Fort Worth.
Collins has to reach the semifinals to stay in the hunt, while Ostapenko has to reach the final. But only one can have a shot at doing so, as the winners of these third-round matches will play each other in the quarterfinals.