Samsonova defeats Olympic champ Bencic to help RTF to Billie Jean King Cup triumph

The Russian Tennis Federation claimed the 2021 women's premier international team tournament after a spectacular Saturday of tennis sealed by 22-year-old Liudmila Samsonova, who defeated Tokyo 2020 champ Belinda Bencic.

By Ken Browne

The Russian Tennis Federation (RTF) are Billie Jean King Cup champions after a sensational final day in Prague on Saturday (6 November).

RTF came out on top against Switzerland with wins for Daria Kasatkina vs Jil Teichmann (6-2, 6-4) and Liudmila Samsonova against reigning women's singles Olympic champion Belinda Bencic. (3-6, 6-3, 6-4)

The Russian women claimed their fifth title in the premier international team tournament formerly known as Fed Cup: Their first win since 2008 in their first final since 2015.

It was a remarkable win for the RTF team when you consider that Tokyo 2020 mixed doubles gold medallist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was ruled out with a knee injury early on Saturday morning, ripping up their game-plan.

Pavlyuchenkova was originally slated to take on Bencic in the second singles match, but had to play the role of chief cheerleader as 22-year-old Samsonova stepped up.

And there was plenty to cheer as rising star Samsonova delivered a terrific display of tennis on her BJKC debut to frustrate Bencic and bring it home for her team in three sets.

Earlier in the first match on Saturday morning Daria Kasatkina set the tone against Teichmann, blitzing her Swiss opponent in the first set to lead by 5-0 at one point.

Kasatkina was fearsome, fizzing with energy as she leapt into backhand smashes and pumped her fist like every point was matchpoint.

After the actual match point she threw herself at her teammates' bench and you could feel the energy and togetherness.

"I will remember these finals, it's amazing, I played the first match and now I played in the final, I'm feeling happy to bring the point to my team," Kasatkina beamed post-match.

It was the first meeting of these two nations in 25 years in this trophy, and a first final for the Swiss since 1998, but it was the RTF who grabbed the limelight with revelation Liudmila Samsonova lighting the way.

"I have too many emotions I'm feeling like I'm freezing, it's unbelievable, an unbelievable feeling," Samsonova said right after winning, clearly overwhelmed.

'How did you beat the Olympic champion?' She was asked, "it was a nervous game, a real fight," she responded.

Aggressive, risk-taking tennis had its reward for Samsonova as the RTF emerged triumphant in what Billie Jean King describes as 'The World Cup of Tennis'.

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