Qualifier Liudmila Samsonova battled back from a set down to beat Belinda Bencic in Sunday's bett1open final for her first WTA title.

Samsonova became the first qualifier to reach a WTA 500 final this season by shaking off Victoria Azarenka in the semis and followed that up with victory over fifth seed Bencic.

The world number 106, competing in her first career final, held serve in the final two sets to win 1-6 6-1 6-3 in a time of one hour and 37 minutes in Berlin.

Bencic was seeking a fifth WTA title and stormed into a 5-0 lead in a one-sided opening set, but Samsonova soon found her rhythm and hit back in the second.

The Russian broke her opponent's service game in the second and fourth games to level up the contest and earned an early break in the deciding set.

Samsonova did not look back and got over the line on her second championship point by forcing Bencic into a netted backhand with a strong return.

She ended the match with 28 winners to just 15 unforced errors and will move into the world's top 100 following victories over Madison Keys, Azarenka and Bencic in this breakthrough week.

Ons Jabeur got her first WTA singles title on the board as she overcame Daria Kasatkina to win the Viking Classic in Birmingham.

In her third career final, the Tunisian second seed prevailed 7-5 6-4.

Jabeur's victory saw her inflict defeat on fourth seed Kasatkina, who won a Moscow title-match showdown between the pair in 2018. The other final defeat for Jabeur came earlier this year in Charleston.

The triumph adds to what has been a superb season so far for Jabeur. She has 28 match victories in 2021, matching world number one Ashleigh Barty's tally – no player has more.

Jabeur faced a tough opponent in the form of Kasatkina, who had won the previous two meetings between the pair and has claimed two titles this season.

World number 24 Jabeur started with real intent, breaking immediately, yet Kasatkina hit straight back and then saved three set points.

Jabeur took the set at the fourth time of asking, however, and two breaks got her clear in the second set, with the win wrapped up at the first opportunity when Kasatkina found the net.

Matteo Berrettini became the first Queen's Club Championships debutant to carry off the singles trophy since Boris Becker, as the Italian landed the biggest title of his career.

The world number nine beat British hope Cameron Norrie 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 in the London showpiece match on Sunday, setting himself up ideally ahead of a Wimbledon mission later this month.

Whereas Becker was 17 when he triumphed at Queen's Club in 1985, going on to be champion at Wimbledon just weeks later, Berrettini is 25 years old and established as a leading player.

His big serve – an aspect of his game he shares with vintage Becker – proved a huge asset against Norrie as Berrettini served 19 aces and won 91 per cent of points when landing his first delivery.

Norrie could not forge a break point but did commendably well to force a deciding set in a match that lasted three minutes short of two hours.

Berrettini said he had experienced an "unbelievable week", lifting his first title at ATP 500 level, and he was blown away by the Becker link.

"If I think about his name and my name, it's crazy," he said in an on-court interview.

"I was dreaming about playing this tournament. I was watching when I was a kid and now I had the chance to lift the trophy. It's a dream come true."

Berrettini could be a threat to anyone if his serve fires at Wimbledon, and he was proud of how he fended off Norrie.

"I didn't check the numbers during the match. I knew I was serving well," said Berrettini. "I knew it was important because in the rallies this guy is dangerous. I knew I had to play my best tennis."

Berrettini said his celebrations were likely to be muted, given he is in a pre-Wimbledon bubble, predicting his team would limit his post-match treats to "probably room service and sparkling water".

There would be cause for greater cheer if Berrettini goes on a run at the All England Club, with Wimbledon due to begin on June 28. His previous best performance at Wimbledon was a run to the fourth round two years ago.

Berrettini told Amazon Prime: "I know it's going to be a really tough tournament.

"Probably all the players have extra motivation to play well there so it's going to be tough, but I have a lot of confidence."

Ugo Humbert upset the odds by overcoming Andrey Rublev to win the Halle Open title, clinching his first ATP 500-level trophy in the process.

Unseeded Humbert already claimed the scalp of Alexander Zverev earlier in the week and, having seen off Felix Auger-Aliassime to reach the final, came out on top against world number seven Rublev 6-3 7-6 (7-4).

Rublev was appearing in his eighth final since the start of 2020, though it was his first on grass. The Russian was seeking a fifth successive victory in an ATP 500 level final, yet ultimately came up short, meaning Humbert made it three wins from three in his career finals.

The 22-year-old won his first two titles – in ATP 250 events in Antwerp and Auckland – last year.

Humbert's victory took just 87 minutes, with the Frenchman winning 45 of 53 points on his first serve.

The only break of the game went Humbert's way when he struck to make it 5-3 in the first set before holding off two break points in the next game to take the lead.

Neither player offered a single break point in the second set, and it was Humbert who nosed himself in the tie-break to secure a third career triumph, becoming the first player to win the Halle Open on his debut at the tournament since Lleyton Hewitt defeated Roger Federer in 2010.

Humbert's win will also take him up six places in the ATP rankings, from 31 to 25.

Qualifier Liudmila Samsonova continued what she described as an "unbelievable" run by upsetting Victoria Azarenka to seal a place in the bett1open final in Berlin.  

The world number 106 reached her first career final by beating two-time major champion Azarenka 6-4 6-2, having impressively seen off Madison Keys in the last eight.

It took just 66 minutes for Samsonova to win as she put on a powerful display of hitting on Saturday, firing down 11 aces.

The 22-year-old did not lose serve in the match and is the first qualifier to reach a WTA 500 final this season.

"It's all incredible for me, it's so new, and I'm very happy for it," Samsonova said amid a week that will give her a rankings surge.

"It’s unbelievable for me. It is the most important [week] of my life up to this moment. 

"I'm sure it’s going to be a tough match because [Bencic] plays very good on this surface, and she's a good player. I will try to do my best and focus on my game, and we will see."

Fifth seed Bencic battled to a 7-5 6-4 victory over Alize Cornet in her last-four clash and will go into the final as favourite.

While the win came in straight sets, it was a hard-fought encounter, with Bencic winning all four of her break points while Cornet forced 10 but only converted two, which proved to be the difference.

Bencic, who will be encouraged ahead of Wimbledon, has now made four grass-court finals in her career and will seek her first WTA Tour title since October 2019 on Sunday.

The Swiss star, who had 29 winners and just 19 unforced errors against Cornet, lost to Iga Swiatek in Adelaide earlier this year in her only final appearance since that last title.

"I always try to play as many tournaments on grass as possible because I just love the surface," Bencic said.

"Of course it gives me a lot of confidence. It's always great to have this confirmation on grass that it is working well."

Matteo Berrettini continued his impressive charge at the Queen's Club Championships as he booked a place in the final against Cameron Norrie.

Top seed Berrettini, ranked nine in the world, has not dropped a set all week.

His impressive run has seen him defeat home hopes Andy Murray and Dan Evans, with one more Briton in the shape of Norrie left to see off in his bid for glory.

Berrettini ensured he will be in the final by claiming a 6-4 6-4 triumph over fourth seed Alex de Minaur in the semi-final on Saturday.

The Italian dropped just four of his 36 points on first-serve and sent down eight aces, with De Minaur only able to force one break point in the entire contest, which he did not take.

"[Making the final] was the goal of the week and now I have one more step," said Berrettini.

"It is a great achievement, especially for the history of this tournament. I am really happy because to beat Alex, I had to play my best tennis."

Berrettini has four tour titles to his name, though this would be his first at ATP 500 level or above.

Victory would also represent the biggest win of Norrie's career – he has lost each of his three previous finals, all at ATP 250 level.

Norrie impressively eliminated Denis Shapovalov to reach the showpiece, beating the Canadian 7-5 6-3.

Shapovalov had earlier finished off a 6-3 6-4 quarter-final win over Frances Tiafoe, a match that could not be completed on Friday due to fading light.

But the second seed could not muster up another victory against a fresher Norrie.

At the Halle Open, Andrey Rublev reached his eighth final since the start of 2020, though his first on a grass court.

Rublev dropped his first set of the week but ultimately prevailed with a 6-1 3-6 6-3 semi-final victory over Nikoloz Basilashvili.

The Russian has won his last four finals at ATP 500 level and will seek a fifth on Sunday.

"It's my first final on grass and in Halle," he said. "I think I can play on every surface and I will try my best again.

"I had good opportunities to break Basilashvili in the second set, some quite easy forehands and I stressed a little showing my emotions. 

"I then came back and stayed calm, until the last game. But I won."

Rublev will take on unseeded Ugo Humbert, who held his nerve to edge a thriller against Felix Auger-Aliassime, winning 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-5).

Humbert beat Alexander Zverev earlier in the week and has had to win a deciding set in all four rounds, while the beaten Auger-Aliassime had previously seen off Roger Federer as part of a dramatic event.

Frenchman Humbert won each of his first two career finals, which both took place last year in ATP 250 events.

Simona Halep will not make her comeback in the inaugural Bad Homburg Open but remains hopeful of being fit to defend her Wimbledon title.

The two-time grand slam champion has been sidelined since suffering a calf injury during her a second-round match against Angelique Kerber at the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome last month.

Halep was due to feature in a new grass-court tournament in Bad Homburg, which starts on Sunday, but is not ready to return.

The world number three is determined to be back at full fitness to feature in the third major of the year at the All England Club.

She revealed in a social media post on Saturday: "I will not compete because my calf is not ready for a competition. I feel sorry about that and sad, because it's a beautiful place.

"I will keep practising because I really want to be able to play at Wimbledon, but for now I have to take care of my body and see how the recovery is going.

Wimbledon gets under way on June 28, having been cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Belinda Bencic let anger fuel her progress to the semi-finals of the bett1open in Berlin on Friday.

Bencic – the fifth seed – needed a third-set tie-break to see off Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-4 4-6 7-6 (7-4).

The Swiss will face Alize Cornet at Steffi Graff Stadion in Saturday's semi-final, after the latter upset two-time grand slam winner and world number 13 Garbine Muguruza – similarly going the distance to prevail 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5) and saving match point at 5-4 in the tie-break.

Bencic had lost two of her previous three encounters with Alexandrova and conceded to having problems with her opponent's playing style after a fired-up performance at the WTA 500 event.

"I have to get mad," she said. "When I'm mad, I play better, I'm just hitting the ball. So I'm trying to get mad on court."

"I definitely don't like playing her," said Bencic afterwards. "There's not so much rhythm, she's very aggressive player, it's tough to stay in the rally. I would say I'm more relieved [to reach the semi-finals].

The other semi-final pits two-time slam champion Victoria Azarenka against qualifier Liudmila Samsonova.

Former world number one Azarenka battled to see off Karolina Pliskova's conqueror Jessica Pegula 6-2 5-7 6-4, gaining a measure of revenge over a player who dumped her out in the first round of the Australian Open this year.

Samsonova stunned Madison Keys, with a deciding tie-break again required, albeit one that was emphatically dealt with as the world number 106 won 7-6 (7-4) 2-6 7-6 (7-0).

Top seed Matteo Berrettini has his sights set on the Queen's Club Championships title after beating Dan Evans in the quarter-finals.

After a delay of more than four hours because of rain in London, Berrettini overcame Evans 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 to reach his third ATP grass-court semi-final.

The Italian hit 13 aces and won 81 per cent of his first-serve points against Evans to set up a last-four clash with Alex de Minaur. 

Berrettini improved his win-loss record to 24-6 for the season and laid out his ambition to walk away from the tournament with the trophy.

"I didn't serve that well, but I was returning well and I just played better in the last few points of the tie-break," he said.

"After that, I felt more confident. The conditions were really tough, windy and cold, so I took time to adapt a little bit. I am pretty happy with my performance.

"The court condition was really good. I expected slippery conditions, but it was like yesterday.

"I came here to win the tournament, that is my goal. Now I am two steps away. I am happy with the way I am playing, and my mental attitude is really good."

Up next for Berrettini is Australian De Minaur, who came from behind to defeat Marin Cilic 3-6 6-3 6-4.

The 22-year-old won 73 per cent (22/30) of his second-serve points and saved six of the seven break points he faced as he moved to 16-12 for the season.

In the battle of the British players, Cameron Norrie beat Jack Draper 6-3 6-3, while Denis Shapovalov was leading Frances Tiafoe 6-3 when their match was suspended due to fading light. They will resume on Saturday.

At the Halle Open, Andrey Rublev reached his sixth ATP Tour semi-final of the year thanks to a 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 win over 2011 champion Philipp Kohlschreiber.

"I am happy with my performance to reach the semi-finals for the first time," Rublev said. "The first set was really tough. He was 3-0 up in the tie-break and I came back, which was the key.

"After the first set, I think he mentally went down and I was pumped up. I hit a couple of good returns in the first game of the second set."

Russian Rublev will face Nikoloz Basilashvili in the last four after the Georgian defeated Lloyd Harris 6-4 7-6 (7-5). 

In the day's other quarter-finals, Felix Auger-Aliassime beat Marcos Giron 6-3 6-2 and Ugo Humbert overcame Sebastian Korda 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 6-4.

Dominic Thiem has joined Rafael Nadal in announcing he will not compete at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The 27-year-old US Open champion pinned his decision on the belief he would struggle to find his best form, having endured a tough 2021 season so far.

Thiem has lost his last three matches, including a first-round defeat to Pablo Andujar at the French Open, and has an overall 9-8 win-loss record for the year.

World number five Thiem confirmed, however, that he intends to play Wimbledon, which begins on June 28, and will then focus on getting in the best possible shape for his grand slam title defence at Flushing Meadows.

Nadal said earlier on Thursday that he would play neither Wimbledon nor the Olympics, where the tennis tournament starts on July 24, because he wished to recover from his clay-court season efforts.

Women's tour superstar Naomi Osaka has elected to miss Wimbledon but said on Thursday she would represent Japan at her home Olympics.

Thiem revealed his Olympics decision in a statement posted on his Twitter page, saying: "After talking with my team and analysing the situation I have taken the very difficult decision to withdraw from competing in the Tokyo Olympics.

"For me, like all athletes, taking part in the Olympics and representing my country is a huge honour and that makes this decision even tougher. However, 2021 did not start as expected and I don't feel ready to play my best in Tokyo.

"These last two weeks I have been training hard – and I’m starting to improve my conditioning and concentration little by little. My goal is to work hard the coming weeks, give my best at Wimbledon and keep training and hopefully defend my US Open title.

"I wish the entire Austrian team traveling to Tokyo all the best. I am young and I hope to be able to play for Austria at the Olympics in Paris 2024."

Naomi Osaka will not take part in Wimbledon, but is expecting to return to the court in time to feature for Japan at the Tokyo Olympics.

Osaka withdrew from the French Open having won her first-round match, after she was fined and threatened with further punishment – and possible expulsion from the grand slam – for skipping obligatory media duties.

The four-time grand slam champion had confirmed before Roland Garros that she would not be taking part in post-match news conferences, suggesting her mental health was not helped by having to attend the mandatory interviews.

Osaka, the world number two, stated she has had "long bouts of depression" since winning the 2018 US Open title.

With Wimbledon starting at the end of June, Osaka has decided to skip the third grand slam of the year, and instead take time away from tennis.

However, she aims to be back to represent Japan in their home Olympic Games, which start next month.

A statement from Osaka's representatives confirmed that she will miss Wimbledon while taking some personal time with friends and family, but that she will be ready for the Olympics.

The 23-year-old's withdrawal came on the same day that Rafael Nadal – a beaten semi-finalist at Roland Garros – confirmed he would not play at Wimbledon or the Olympics.

Nadal, 35, explained that the quick turnaround from a gruelling campaign in Paris to another tough schedule at Wimbledon presented too much of a risk to his fitness.

Top seed Matteo Berrettini beat Andy Murray to reach the quarter-finals at Queen's Club and Ugo Humbert upset Alexander Zverev at the Halle Open on Thursday.

Murray, a five-time champion at Queen's, was beaten 6-3 6-3 by Italian Berrettini as the three-time grand slam champion struggled a day on from being given a Wimbledon wildcard.

The former world number one beat Benoit Paire in his first ATP Tour singles match since March on Tuesday, but the 34-year-old revealed he is still being troubled by a groin injury after his loss to Berrettini and knows he must raise his game.

Murray said: "I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good. That's the thing that I'll need to improve the most.

"Then there is still a slight niggle in the groin, so [I have] to try to get rid of that discomfort between now and Wimbledon. I need to be playing points, basically. I played two sets in preparation for this event.

"I do feel like I genuinely have been hitting the ball well in practice, but then like today when you're under a bit more pressure and stuff and you're having to make very split-second decisions when you're on the court, if the guy is serving 140 miles an hour, like, it's difficult to prepare for that."

Dan Evans made history earlier in the day, getting the better of Adrian Mannarino 6-4 7-6 (9-7).

With Jack Draper and Cameron Norrie having already progressed, Evans' win ensured there will be three Britons in the singles quarter-finals for the first time in the Open Era.

Feliciano Lopez will not retain his title in London after the Spaniard went down 6-2 6-3 to second seed Denis Shapovalov. Spanish veteran Lopez won in 2019, with last year's tournament cancelled due to the pandemic.

There will be no glory on home soil in Halle for German Zverev, who was taken out 7-6 (7-4) 3-6 6-3 by unseeded Frenchman Humbert.

Humbert has now beaten a top-10 player on every surface, with Zverev serving 20 aces but bowing out after his 22-year-old opponent claimed the only break of the final set.

Sebastian Korda battled past Kei Nishikori 2-6 6-3 7-5 in Halle, while Lloyd Harris also moved into the last eight at Lukas Lacko's expense.

Jessica Pegula got the better of Karolina Pliskova once again as she knocked the fourth seed out of the bett1open on Thursday.

The American beat the former world number one 7-5 6-2 in Berlin, setting up a quarter-final clash with Victoria Azarenka.

It is the fourth time this season Pegula has defeated Pliskova.

Azarenka was also a straight-sets winner, overcoming Angelique Kerber in a battling 6-3 7-5 victory.

The two-time Australian Open champion was 4-1 down in the second set but roared back to prevail over Kerber for the 10th time in 11 matches.

Garbine Muguruza enjoyed a 6-4 6-3 victory over Elena Rybakina and will take on Alize Cornet next, while Ludmilla Samsonova downed Veronika Kudermetova by the same scoreline and will now face Madison Keys.

The US Open is set to be the first tennis grand slam to operate at full spectator capacity for its duration since COVID-19 became a global crisis.

Tournament organisers said on Thursday that the major, which was played behind closed doors in 2020, would not impose reduce attendance measures this year.

"New York is back, and so are the fans," a statement on the tournament's website said. "The 2021 US Open will welcome fans back to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at 100 per cent capacity for the two-week tournament."

Mike Dowse, chief executive of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), said: "We are extremely excited to be able to welcome our incredible fans back to the US Open this year.

"While we were proud that we were able to hold the event in 2020, we missed having our fans on-site, because we know that they are a large part of what makes the US Open experience unlike any other.

"Indeed, the challenges presented by the pandemic were tough on us all, but our sport came together like never before and tackled each challenge head on."

Dowse added: "Our sport surged in the toughest of times, and this year's US Open promises to be an unforgettable celebration of the game, those who play it, and those who revel in it."

The tournament added that it would follow all COVID-related guidelines, although its intention clearly is to run the major in as normal a manner as is possible.

The US Open's announcement came on the day tickets went on sale for the upcoming Wimbledon championship, which begins on June 28. The grass-court slam was cancelled last year.

Wimbledon will operate at a 50 per cent attendance restriction for much of its duration, although the weekend of the finals is due to see Centre Court at 100 per cent capacity.

The French Open functioned with a vastly reduced number of tickets available in both its 2020 and 2021 editions, compared to previous years.

The Australian Open in February capped spectator numbers at 30,000, although a snap lockdown in Melbourne meant there were no crowds for five days midway through the event, with Rod Laver Arena then limited to approximately 50 per cent capacity for the closing stretch of the event.

Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem won the women's and men's singles titles at the 2020 US Open, and this year's tournament runs from August 30 to September 12.

Rafael Nadal will not compete at Wimbledon or the Olympic Games as he bids to prolong his prolific career.

The 20-time grand slam champion was knocked out of the French Open at the semi-final stage by eventual winner Novak Djokovic.

And, with just a two-week gap to the grass-court slam in London, the 35-year-old has opted against taking part at the All England Club or the Games in Tokyo.

"Hi all, I have decided not to participate at this year's Championships at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Tokyo," the Spaniard tweeted.

"It's never an easy decision to take but after listening to my body and discuss it with my team I understand that it is the right decision.

"The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy, that is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at he maximum level of competition."

Nadal explained that the quick turnaround from a gruelling campaign in Paris to another tough schedule at Wimbledon presented too much of a risk to his fitness.

"The fact that there has only been two weeks between RG [Roland Garros] and Wimbledon didn't make it easier on my body to recuperate after the always demanding clay court season," he said.

"They have been two months of great effort and the decision I take is focused looking at the mid and long term.

"Sport prevention of any kind of excess in my body is a very important factor at this stage of my career in order to try to keep fighting for the highest level of competition and titles.

"I want to send a special message to my fans around the world, to those in the United Kingdom and Japan in particular.

"The Olympic Games always meant a lot and they were always a priority as a Sports person, I found the spirit that every sports person in the world wants to live. I personally had the chance to live 3 of them and had the honor to be the flag bearer for my country."

Nadal is a two-time Wimbledon champion and took gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

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