World No.15 Liudmila Samsonova took down 20th-ranked Paula Badosa 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-4 on Sunday to reach the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. In 3 hours and 22 minutes, it was the longest match of the year so far.
At the year's first WTA 1000 event, Samsonova fired 12 aces in her first-round victory.
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"Playing against Paula is always tough," Samsonova said on court after her win. "She’s doing unbelievable, so I’m really proud that I stayed on the court until the end. ... I think I’m growing match after match, day by day. I know it’s a long journey, and I hope to continue like that."
Samsonova now has a 3-0 head-to-head lead over Badosa. Four of the last six sets in their rivalry have been settled by tiebreaks -- with each player winning two.
Badosa squeaked out the first set in 77 minutes, but Samsonova held firm to take the 73-minute second set. The duo exchanged breaks in the first two games of the decisive third set, and Badosa held break point to take a 3-1 lead.
But Samsonova saved the break point with a fiery forehand landing on the back of the baseline, eventually holding for 2-2. Samsonova took control for good with a break at love for a 4-3 lead.
No.14 seed Samsonova converted her second match point at 5-4 to seal the 53-minute final set and line up a second-round meeting against No.24-ranked Zheng Qinwen.
Earlier on Sunday, Zheng beat Zhang Shuai in a first-round match between China's highest-ranked singles players.
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Currently at her career-high ranking, Samsonova defeated Zheng just over a week ago in the Abu Dhabi semifinals to take a 2-1 lead in their head-to-head.