Aggressive, Consistent Kontaveit Reaches Palermo Final

WASHINGTON, August 9, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

As she stepped out onto the red clay of ASD Country Time Club’s Center Court for her semifinal match in the 31st Palermo Ladies Open in southern Italy on Saturday, fourth seed Anett Kontaveit had battled through back-to-back three-set matches to arrive at her station of the draw. She was quite familiar with the surroundings and atmosphere by having spent five hours and 46 minutes on Center Court through the first three rounds of this WTA International event, which has relaunched the women’s pro tour this week.

On the other side of the net, No. 15 Petra Martic of Croatia came in as a top seed in a WTA tournament for the first time in her career. She had won 17 of her last 20 matches on clay, reaching at least the quarterfinals in her last six clay tournaments going back to 2018 in Bucharest.

In their only other meeting, earlier this year in the Dubai quarterfinals on a hard court, Martic won 7-6 (4), 6-1.

What transpired Saturday in Sicily was this: the 22nd-ranked Kontaveit won her semifinal over Martic, 6-2, 6-4, needing just one hour and 29 minutes to advance to Sunday’s final – her third clay-court final – where she will face unseeded and 53rd-ranked Fiona Ferro of France, who came from behind to beat unseeded and 89th-ranked Italian hope Camila Giorgi, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.

“I felt like I played a very good match today,” said the 24-year-old Kontaveit from Estonia, after beating Martic. “I was quite aggressive, consistent, and I served especially well in the first set. It got a bit close in the end, but I played a good game at 5-4 and I’m happy to be in the final.”

Once Kontaveit fought through a bit of adversity to hold her serve in the opening game of the match, she used the confidence she gained and built upon it. There was plenty of depth to her hitting: four service aces, four break points saved, a 72-percent winning clip on her first-serve points, plus she broke Martic five times in nine tries.

Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Martic struggled at times, winning just 57 percent of her first serves and her efficiency of winning points on her second serve dropped to just 36 percent. She won only two of her six break-point opportunities and was outpointed by Kontaveit 64-50.

Both players required medical time outs at different times during the match: Kontaveit for treatment on her upper left leg between the first and second sets, and Martic following the ninth game of the second set, trailing 5-4.

Martic gave due props to Kontaveit following their semifinal contest. “It was a tough one,” she said. “I thought I didn’t play badly. I had a few chances I missed, and in the end that makes a difference. Anett played well, she played smart and was the better player today.”

Ferro reaches second career WTA final

In the second semifinal, French No. 3 Fiona Ferro recovered very nicely after losing her first set of the week against a very determined Camila Giorgi, who was in pursuit of reaching her first final in Italy. After falling behind 5-0 and having her serve broken three times in the opening set by the Italian No. 1 Giorgi, Ferro recovered and raised the level of her game to win the next two sets and move into her first final of 2020 with her 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 triumph in two hours and six minutes.

“The first set was very tough for me, because she was playing fast and I was always late,” Ferro said during her post-match interview, quoted by the WTA website, in describing the difficulty of playing Giorgi. “She’s not the player I usually like to play because she’s trying a winner on every shot. So, it’s not easy to play against her.”

“But then, I tried to focus more on my game and not hers, to prepare earlier and just be more aggressive. And I think I served better in the second and third set.”

Ferro overcame four doubles faults and five breaks of her serve against Giorgi. She went on to break her opponent six times in 12 tries. Total points were even at 88. She made the necessary adjustments in her game, took advantage of her opportunities and at 5-all in the final set, Ferro broke Giorgi and put away the contest on her second match point try.

After beating qualifier Nadia Podoroska of Argentina in the first round, Ferro upset No. 8 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia and on Friday knocked off two-time former Palermo champion Sara Errani from Italy to reach her semifinal match against Giorgi.

“I would have never won those kinds of matches two years ago,” said Ferro.  “I used to focus a lot on my opponent when she was playing aggressive, and I didn’t find solutions. 

“Today I’m very happy to be through because I managed to maybe focus more on my game and not on my emotions.”

Passing shots

• With a 5-5 win-loss record in WTA semifinals, Anett Kontaveit enters Sunday’s 7:30 p.m. CEST final in pursuit of her second WTA career title. Her last crown came back in June 2017 on grass at Rosmalen, Netherlands. After beating Martic, Kontaveit said, “It’s always difficult to tell how it’s going to be on court. I can feel well practiced but it might not turn out like that right away. I feel like I’m really fit and I feel like I’m moving well. I feel confident with my ground strokes, I’m serving well. I’m pleased it’s paid off.”

Coming into the restart of the 2020 WTA season, Fiona Ferro won a couple of FFT domestic titles at home in France and compiled an impressive 10-0 win-loss record. “You always hope to be in the final in the beginning of the week, but you never know if it’s going to happen. I had a good preparation for this tournament because I played some matches in July in France. I think that helped me when I got here, because I was ready.”

• Unseeded Italian pair Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Martina Trevisan upset fourth seeds Bibiane Schoofs and Rosalie Van Der Hoek, both from the Netherlands, 6-4, 6-3, in one hour and 26 minutes to reach Sunday afternoon’s 5 p.m. final against Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands and Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia.