Veronika Kudermetova joined Daria Kasatkina

In Tokyo, at the Toray Pan Pacific Open Tennis, a Women's Tennis Association (WTA) 500 tournament with a prize pool of $758,000, two Russians reached the semifinals at once. Lyudmila Samsonova defeated the 12th racket of the world Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, and Veronika Kudermetova broke the resistance of Beatriz Addad Maria. A successful performance in Japan can help Kudermetova strengthen her position in the fight for a ticket to the final WTA tournament, where she and another Russian woman, Daria Kasatkina, are currently getting into.

The WTA Tokyo tournament is taking place for the first time after a two-year hiatus related to the coronavirus pandemic, and is one of the five biggest competitions to be held on the women's tour this fall. That is, its value for the distribution of tickets to the WTA Finals, which will be held in early November in Fort Worth (Texas), is quite large. At the moment, only two tennis players have secured participation in this prestigious tournament - world ranking leader Iga Swiatek from Poland and his number two Uns Jabir from Tunisia. With a high degree of probability, we can say that the third racket of the world American Jessica Pegula will also get to the WTA Finals, but there will be a struggle for the other five places in the top eight.

Fourth place in points scored this year is now occupied by American Coco Gauff (2983 points), followed by Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia (2896), Belarusian Arina Sobolenko (2871), Russian Daria Kasatkina (2831) and Romanian Simona Halep (2661). However, in the life of 30-year-old Halep, a difficult period has come. After losing in the first round of the US Open, she divorced her husband, underwent surgery on the nasal septum and announced the early end of the season. Thus, the last one in Fort Worth at the moment is not Halep, but another Russian woman - Veronika Kudermetova, who, thanks to reaching the semi-finals of the Japanese tournament with 2497 points, moved to the ninth place in the Race to the WTA Finals, beating the Greek Maria Sakkari.

Of course, it is still impossible to say that Kudermetova will definitely play in Texas. But it is already clear that she is having her best season yet.

On account of the 25-year-old tennis player, she reached the quarterfinals of the Grand Slam tournaments at Roland Garros for the first time in her career, the finals in Dubai and Istanbul, the quarterfinals in Indian Wells, and also the fourth round of the US Open, where she competed on equal terms with Jabir. It is not surprising that in the main, 52-week WTA ranking, the Russian woman now occupies her highest 13th place.

In Tokyo, Kudermetova entered the fight from the second round, where she gave only one game to the Mexican Fernanda Contreras Gomez, after which she met with a strong Brazilian Beatriz Addad Maria. It was already a very stubborn match, in which two tie-breaks had to be played, but in the third game Kudermetova broke her opponent psychologically and won in 3 hours 14 minutes - 6:7 (5:7), 7:6 (10:8), 6:1. After that, the ratio of victories and defeats of the second racket of Russia in meetings with representatives of the top twenty this season became positive - 8:7. It is significant that last year the same indicator of Kudermetova was fundamentally different - 3:15.

In the semifinals, she is waiting for a still very young 19-year-old Chinese woman Zheng Qinwen, who has been making significant progress lately, is 36th in the rating, and with her aggressive style of play, based on a good serve, resembles Kudermetova herself. Moreover, we must keep in mind that on Friday after the victory over Beatriz Addad Maria, the Russian woman still had to play a doubles match.

Another semi-final in Tokyo also turned out to be Russian-Chinese. First, this stage was reached by one of the most experienced tennis players of the top hundred - 33-year-old Zhang Shuai, and then by Lyudmila Samsonova, who very confidently coped with the famous Spaniard Garbine Muguruza - 6:4, 6:2. This two-time Grand Slam champion won the WTA Finals last season, but now she's almost certain she won't make it, risking her relegation from the top forty in the world soon.

Evgeny Fedyakov

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