Camila Giorgi joined fellow Italians Sara Errani and Elisabetta Cocciaretto in the quarter-finals of the 31st Palermo Ladies Open after surviving a stern test from the Slovenian teenage qualifier, Kaja Juvan, 3-6 6-2 6-4 on Thursday.
At the start of the match, I was making too many tactical mistakes because I was trying to finish points for no reason. I started to adopt better tactics in the second set and that's when things started working for me. Camila Giorgi
It is the hometown favourite’s second WTA quarter-final of 2020 despite the 5 month suspension of the women’s tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think I was more solid in playing my game,” said Giorgi, the World No 30, of the final two sets. “I was moving more forward, so it was much better for me.”
Juvan turned around a 1-6, 4-5 deficit to upset 2019 French Open finalist and No 2 seed Marketa Vondrosova on Tuesday.
Giorgi was outpaced in the opening set as Juvan matched the Italian’s inimitable aggression with some big shots of her own, hitting 18 winners to 13 to win it.
A trio of tense service games saw Giorgi emerge on top by the middle of the second set, breaking once more and striking a booming forehand winner to engineer a slew of set points and needing only one to level.
Ahead of the final set, Juvan called for a medical time.
“At the start of the match, I was making too many tactical mistakes because I was trying to finish points for no reason,” Giorgi said. “I started to adopt better tactics in the second set and that’s when things started working for me.”
The 28-year-old landed a backhand return winner to break and served her way to a 5-1 lead when Juvan made a brave last stand, breaking Giorgi as she served for the match in between 2 strong service holds.
Undaunted, Giorgi kept pressing to earn 2 match points, slicing a deep approach that clipped the baseline and securing victory on her second.
“I think I need to improve everything in my game because we’re still at the start,” she said. “I’ve been making more mistakes than usual, I think, and so I need to play more matches to get better rhythm.”
Up next for the Italian is the No 7 seed Dayana Yastremska, who dispatched French lucky loser Oceane Dodin from France in straight sets, 6-2 6-4.
“I’m very happy to be in a quarter-final after so long of playing no tournaments,” Yastremska said. “It was a good match, starting pretty late. All day, I had to be very focused to stay in a good way with the mind.”
The Ukrainian No 7 completed the last 8 line-up in emphatic style on Thursday night, beginning the match in scintillating form and striking a whopping 16 winners to just 4 unforced errors to sweep the opening set, landing 5 aces and converting 3 of 4 break point opportunities.
“I was trying to do some different things today, some slices, drop shots, but flat hitting was working best today,” she said. “My style of game may be better for hard and grass courts, but I like playing on clay, well.
“You can do more things on this surface than on quicker courts anyway.”
Dodin was on more level terms in the second, clawing back from an early break to remain on serve until the crucial 10th game and although she saved the first match point, she couldn’t save the second, and Yastremska secured victory with a thunderous backhand return.
Top seed Petra Martic had to dig deep to turn around a set deficit against another qualifier Liudmila Samsonova.
The Croatian needed a few games to find her rhythm against the 21-year-old Russian, ranked World No 117, and after narrowly dropping the first set, Martic raised her level to complete the comeback, 5-7 6-4 6-2.
“The struggle was real out there today,” Martic joked in her post-match press conference. “From the first point, I started off not feeling my game and she was really in such a good rhythm.
“I think [Samsonova] played really good. She’s not the type of player I like to play: she plays really fast, hits really flat and low. And especially on these courts it can be tricky.
“Overall I didn’t really enjoy myself out there, but I realised right away that it was not going to be easy and I was going to have to fight.”
Neither gave an inch during the hard-fought opening set, which saw the first 11 games go the way of the server.
Martic used her variety and aggression to try to neutralise Samsonova’s firepower, but the Russian kept pace.
With 3 break opportunities between them and staying on serve up to 5-4, Martic put in a huge effort saving 6 break points in her next service game to level but the Russian finally closed her out with a final break for 7-5, needing 3 more set points to get the job done.
A visibly frustrated Martic hit the reset button and was rewarded with the second set, and with an early break in the third and as the set unfolded, she raised her game, finding winners and saving a break point to keep her lead at 3-2.
Samsonova never stayed down for long, and broke back late in the set to level at 4-4, but Martic refused to let her take the lead this time, and broke straight back before serving out the set, 6-4.
Martic faces another qualifier in Belarus’ Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who awaits in the quarters.
Currently ranked World No 50, but once climbing as high as No 30, Sasnovich had to battle through qualifying before ending Jasmine Paolini’s run in straight sets to advance.
“I’ve got two matches now, I’ve fought and I’ve played good, I’ve played bad, I experienced it all,” Martic said. “I feel like I’m going to be ready.”
With the early departures of Vondrousova and 3rd-seeded Maria Sakkari, Anett Kontaveit is the next highest seed left in the draw at No 4, and she also had to come back from a set down to escape Germany’s Laura Siegemund, 3-6 6-2 6-2.
Siegemund powered her way to the first set, but the Estonian raised her level in the second and third to dodge the upset, winning after 2 hours and 20 minutes.
“I’m quite happy about the way I was handling close situations, playing the close games and turning the close games around,” Kontaveit said, speaking to journalists via video chat.
“I thought I actually handled that sort of pressure, that I didn’t think I’d be used to, quite well.”
Kontaveit needed a few games to adjust to Siegemund’s all-court game, and after dropping the opener, she dialled up her aggression with a 3-0 lead, breaking the German twice.
She kept her nose in front as Siegemund continued to attack, saving a break point to reel off another 3 games in a row to close out the set 6-2.
Kontaveit dominated in the final set, breaking twice again and facing just one break point in return, but she needed 5 match points in a marathon final game to finally dismiss Siegemund’s challenge.
“Laura is a really tough opponent, and I really felt like I had to lift my game in the second set and play more aggressive,” Kontaveit said. “I try to take initiative right when I see it and maybe do it earlier in the point, try to move my feet quicker and get around the ball, try to hit it earlier and take time away from the opponent.
“I think that’s what made the difference after the first set.”
Italy’s wildcard Elisabetta Cocciaretto awaits Kontaveit in the next round after the 19-year-old eliminated No 6 seed Donna Vekic on Wednesday.
“It’s definitely going to be really tough, I saw her match against Donna last night,” Kontaveit said. “She was playing really well, very confident and very aggressive, and I think she did great.
“Donna is also a great player, so it was definitely a good win.
“I mean, I haven’t played against her before, I’ve just seen her play. One thing is seeing someone play but another thing is actually playing against them. We’ll see what happens, but I’m ready for the challenge.”