Samsonova v Bencic: Stage set for inaugural Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open final

Samsonova v Bencic: Stage set for inaugural Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open final
The inaugural Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open reaches its conclusion on Sunday evening when Belinda Bencic and Liudmila Samsonova contest the final at Zayed Sports City.

Here is a look at both players, how they reached the final, and a prediction for who will clinch the title.

Belinda Bencic
The Swiss second seed was among the favourites for the title from the start and she has made good on that status with an impressive tournament so far. Bencic, 25, is all too familiar with success in the UAE having won the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title in 2019, which ended a near four-year trophy drought.

That long wait between trophies can be largely attributed to a long-term wrist injury which meant a prodigiously talented Bencic - she reached the US Open quarter-finals at the age of 17 - needed to rebuild her career.

The winner of seven WTA Tour titles and with a career-high ranking of No 2, achieved in February 2022, the highlight of Bencic's career so far came in the summer of 2021 when she won singles Olympic gold in Tokyo.

Bencic has started this season well, with a title at the Adelaide International, although she only reached the second round of the Australian Open.

Abu Dhabi will be Bencic's 18th WTA final.

Liudmila Samsonova
Since competing full time on the WTA Tour at the start of the 2019 season, Samsonova enjoyed a steady rise and won her first title in June 2021 at the German Open, beating, incidentally, Bencic in the final.

Last year, though, was a true breakout season for the Russian, who won another three tournaments to rise to a career-high No 19 in the rankings, a position she still holds.

Prior to her run to the Abu Dhabi final, it had been a slow start to the year, with early exits at both Adelaide Internationals and a second-round defeat at the Australian Open.

Samsonova, 24, is yet to make a deep run at one of the four Grand Slam events, with a pair of fourth rounds (Wimbledon 2021 and US Open 2022) her best showings so far.

However, she does have a perfect record in WTA Tour finals: four finals, four titles.

Head-to-head record
Samsonova has dominated her rivalry with Bencic, winning all three of their previous meetings. The first came in that German Cup final on grass in June 2021, with Samsonova claiming a 1-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory.

The pair met again three months later on an indoor hard court in the Luxembourg Open quarter-finals, Samsonova earning a comfortable 6-1, 6-4 win.

Their most recent meeting came at the Billie Jean King Cup in November 2021, when Samsonova defeated Bencic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final to help Russia beat Switzerland and clinch the title. That match also took place on an indoor hard court.

Final schedule
The Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open singles final will take place not before 5pm. The doubles final will kick off the action at 3pm.

Final tickets
Most of the tickets for the final have been sold, although official provider still has a few courtside tickets remaining. These tickets cost Dh1295.

Final prediction
A very tough one to call. On one side, Bencic is the higher-ranked and more experienced player with recent title success in the UAE who has a title to her name already this season. On the other, Samsonova has two crucial faultless records: one in finals, the other against Bencic.

This match looks poised to go three sets, with Bencic to finally end her losing run against Samsonova.
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