Four Great Matches, Four Big Comebacks At Palermo

WASHINGTON, August 8, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Top seed Petra Martic reached her second WTA semifinal of the year on Friday when she became the first to book her ticket for the weekend at the 31st Palermo Ladies Open in southern Italy. However, with the success of her victory came a little struggle along the way.

The World No. 15 Martic from Croatia defeated a very determined Aliaksandra Sasanovich of Belarus, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), in the first quarterfinal round match on the red clay Center Court at ASD Country Time Club on a hot afternoon as the temperature reached 29º Celsius.

Martic recovered from a break down in the first set of what turned out to be two tie-break sets and eventually needed four match points to ultimately wrap up the victory. Twice in the second set, she served for the match against the 50th-ranked Sasnovich, who played three rounds of qualifying and two earlier main-draw matches to reach the quarterfinals. Finally, after two hours and 18 minutes, Martic won after Sasnovich had saved three earlier match points. The two sets won by Martic were the first ones that Sasnovich had lost in her six Palermo matches this week.

Through their battle, Martic accumulated 54 winners against 23 unforced errors while Sasnovich finished with 45 winners and hit 28 unforced errors.

What did Martic think of her result? “Overall, it was a good fight,” she said during an on-court interview following her victory. “I knew she wasn’t going to give up until the match was over, and that’s what she proved once again. 

“I think today was better than yesterday. There are some things that I was happy with, some things that I’m not really happy with… but I’m really just happy that I managed to win this match in two sets.”

Later, during a video press conference, as quoted by the WTA website, Martic said: “I had to adjust from my match yesterday [against Liudmila Samsonova]. The points were longer and it was more physical. It was a tough two sets, but I’m really happy that even though things weren’t going my way at the end of the second set, that I managed to pull through.”

Around Center Court

Martic’s semifinal opponent will be No. 4 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. The World No. 22 bookended her quarterfinal victory over 19-year-old Italian qualifier Elisabetta Cocciaretto with a pair of breadsticks in a 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 win. It represents Kontaveit’s best result in 2020 as she’s reached the semifinals for the first time this year.

In back of 57 winners, which included five service aces and seven breaks of the local favorite Cocciaretto’s service, Kontaveit rose to the challenge in her third quarterfinal match of 2020 and won in one hour and 54 minutes.

“It was really tough tonight,” said Kontaveit during a post-match interview on court. “She played great and she had the home crowd definitely behind her. I’m really happy with how I fought in the third set and that I managed to turn it around in the end.”

The loss ended a wonderful run by the 157th-ranked Cocciaretto, who was the youngest Italian to reach a WTA quarterfinal since Sara Errani at Budapest in 2006 and the youngest quarterfinalist at Palermo since Laura Robson reached the 2012 semifinals.

No. 53 Fiona Ferro of France overcame the obstacle of being down a break in the first set and went on to dominate play against former Palermo champion Sara Errani of Italy. Ferro posted a 6-4, 6-1 win in just 88 minutes to advance with her third consecutive straight-set victory.

Ferro converted six of 10 break points against Errani and finished with 41 winners against 20 unforced errors. She won nine of the last 10 games of the match. Meanwhile, Errani, twice the Palermo champion in 2008 and 2012, was done in by her inability to win points on her first serve. She won just 15 of 39 opportunities for a paltry 38 percent. The Italian was going after the 181st clay-court victory in her career.

“I was trying to be more patient, because in the beginning, I think I was rushing things a little bit,” said Ferro, quoted by the WTA website, during her post-match media. “So, I just tried to take my time more, and it worked.”

Following the earlier quarterfinal losses by Cocciaretto and Errani, Carla Giorgi kept Italian hopes alive by enjoying a big comeback in the wee hours of Saturday morning. The 89th-ranked Giorgi saved two match points and overcame 12 double faults to come back from a set and a break down against No. 7 seed Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine. The Italian won 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 to secure the last semifinal berth. The final quarterfinal match of the night lasted two hour and 52 minutes and didn’t finish until nearly 1:30 a.m. local time.

As the 25th-ranked Yastremska was but one point away from winning 6-4, 6-4, Giorgi fought off match points twice with powerful returns. On her third break point of the game, she leveled the set at 5-5 and went on to pull out the second set in a tie-break.

In her post-match press conference, Giorgi described her win over Yastremska as “more mental, the match, because I was very close always. I needed to take the chances in the right way. I took them in the match points for her, and I started to be more aggressive in my game, and I started to move more forward, and tried to dominate the game.”

Looking ahead, Giorgi will oppose a very in-form Ferro, who has strung together three wins without dropping a set in Palermo this week. “I think it’s going to be a good match, for sure,” said Giorgi, who has played consecutive three-set matches and will be playing for the third straight day on Saturday. “I’m going to focus on my game and see what I need to improve for (Saturday).”

Passing shots

Saturday’s semifinal action will begin at 5 p.m. CEST with No. 1 seed Petra Martic facing No. 4 Anett Kontaveit in the first singles match. It will be followed by Fiona Ferro versus Camila Giorgi. Then, a doubles semifinal pitting the all-Italian team of Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Martina Trevisan will take on an all-Dutch team of No. 4 seeds Bibiane Schoofs and Rosalie Van Der Hoek from the Netherlands. The doubles winners will advance to Sunday’s doubles final against Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands and Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia, who advanced with a 1-6, 7-6 (4), 13-11 win over Greet Minnen and Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium in a Friday semifinal.