New doubles pairings always take time to gel, but Veronika Kudermetova and Liudmila Samsonova came into the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships having won just one match a team this season.
Ranked No.5 on the doubles circuit, Kudermetova is an established force, having captured the WTA Finals with former partner Elise Mertens last fall. Samsonova is a self-professed doubles rookie, ranked No.196, who had yet to make a WTA doubles final. The duo paired up formally for 2023 in Australia.
Yet despite their dearth of momentum and different levels of doubles experience, Kudermetova and Samsonova enjoyed a dominant week to win their first team title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. The team dropped just one set during the week while knocking out two of the Top 4 seeds, culminating in a 6-4, 6-7(1), 10-1 win over Latisha Chan and Chan Hao-Ching in Saturday's final.
Match report: Kudermetova, Samsonova seal a near-perfect week in Dubai
A packed crowd for a brilliant doubles final 👏— wta (@WTA) February 25, 2023
Veronika Kudermetova & @LiudaSamsonova capture the 2023 Dubai doubles title with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 10-1 win over Chan/Chan!#DDFTennis pic.twitter.com/yAEK206Xfq
The giddy duo spoke to WTA Insider after the win to discuss how their partnership came together and why everything seemed to click in Dubai.
WTA Insider: Veronika, talk us through the match.
Kudermetova: I think we started to play well in the first set, the second set was a lot of ups and downs, especially from my side. I usually play very consistent and good, but today she helped me a lot. We played the tiebreak well, I started to play better, serve better.
I was a little bit frustated because I missed some easy shots. Liuda always tried to support me, saying keep calm, it's ok.
Samsonova: It happened the same a few days ago when I lost my singles match. I was a little bit flat in our match and Veronika did the same.
Kudermetova: Before the final set we said we need to play like we played the Billie Jean King Cup a few years ago. We were so aggressive.
We're super happy and proud that we managed to win this final. It was a really nice atmosphere today. A lot of people supported us. We felt like we played at home today.
WTA Insider: How did your partnership come about?
Kudermetova: To be honest, with Liudmila, she's my Grandmother's favorite player (laughs).
Samsonova: That's why she chose me (laughs).
Kudermetova: Every time I play against Liuda, my grandmother says Ok fine, maybe today I will support Veronika more than Liuda (laughs).
But to be honest, Liuda is one of the nicest people. We have a nice atmosphere on our team, we work really well. The win today, I'm so happy and so proud. It's something special.
WTA Insider: What do you think clicked for you this week?
Samsonova: We were trying to improve our game during these two months. We started in Australia and sometimes I was playing so-so and Veronika was playing amazing. I think we just needed time. I think this week was the good one.
Kudermetova: Maybe better communication, better teamwork. We started to feel each other better on the court. Started to play smarter. This week, I lost in the first round in singles and we focused more on the doubles. We practiced doubles, we learned some things. It was a good week to focus more on the doubles game.
WTA Insider: Liudmila, how does it feel to win your first WTA doubles title?
Samsonova: For me, it's an unbelievable achievement because I didn't play so much doubles in my life. I was believing a lot to play with Veronika together.
I think we felt it during the Billie Jean King Cup, this kind of feeling in the match. I think our games are working really well together. I was believing a lot that we can play really, really good. Today it's an amazing day for me.
WTA Insider: Liudmila, what was your motivation in incorporating more doubles in your schedule?
Samsonova: The first thing was to try and play more doubles to improve my game in singles. Then I had a chance to play with Veronika and I can't say no, you know?
It's helped me in a little bit of everything. The volleys and returns for sure. Try and stay there in every point, to be focused every point, because in doubles everything can change really fast.
WTA Insider: With a WTA 1000 title under your belts, does that give you the confidence you can do well next month at Indian Wells and Miami?
Kudermetova: We always believe in our team and our tennis and right now it's working. We'll try and keep winning, keep doing the same thing. We'll try and do our best in the singles. Singles is the priority, doubles is behind that.