Italy’s Elisabetta Cocciaretto took 2 hours and 8 minutes to get past Sofia Kenin and make her into her first WTA final at the Hobart International on Friday, where she will meet American qualifier Lauren Davis, who brought an end to Anna Blinkova’s run at the WTA 250 tournament.
The first set, I took the chance to win the set, and then the second set, she was more focused, she was more aggressive than me. I think that's why she won the second. Then I tried to change my game a little bit in the third, and it was really tough, but I’m happy about my win. Elisabetta Cocciaretto
21-year old Cocciaretto, who is ranked 67 in the world outlasted Kenin, a former Australian Open champion, 7-5 4-6 6-1, at the Domain Tennis Centre, in a win that is expected to see her break into the Top 50 next week, a career high for her.
“It’s unbelievable for me to be here in the final of such a great tournament, and I’m really happy about my performance today,” Cocciaretto said on court after her win. “[Kenin is] a very good player, I was a junior when she won the Grand Slam, so for me it’s an honour to play against her.”
Cocciaretto has risen nearly 100 spots in the rankings since this time last year, and won a WTA 125 singles title at Tampico last season.
Earlier in the week, the Italian had defeated Frenchwoman Alizé Cornet, the No 3 seed, 6-4 6-2, compatriot Jasmine Paolini, 6-2 6-1, and American Bernarda Pera, the No 6 seed, 5-7 7-6(8) 6-4).
Kenin has been ranked as high as No 4 in the world, but is currently languishing at 280 after a difficult couple of years enduring illness, injury and off-court issues.
This week she has displayed a welcome return to form, defeating Chinese Lin Zhu, 6-2 6-2, Belgian qualifier Maryna Zanevska, 6-2 6-3, and Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina, the No 5 seed, 4-6 6-3 6-1, to score 3 consecutive wins for the first time since the 2021 French Open.
Cocciaretto fired 34 winners, including 9 aces, against Kenin, who suffered her first-ever loss in Hobart, having won the 2019 title in her only previous appearance here.
The Italian battled back from a set point down at 5-4 in the opener, blasting forehands to steal a one-set lead but, in the second, it was the American’s turn to stage a come-back, fighting from an early break down before breaking Cocciaretto to love and levelling the match.
Cocciaretto regrouped splendidly in the decider, breaking Kenin two times in a row before saving 5 break points, 2 with aces, to tough out a gritty hold for 4-0 and, in the final game, the Italian combined outstanding defence with pinpoint groundstrokes to earn her 6th service break and her place in the final.
“The first set, I took the chance to win the set, and then the second set, she was more focused, she was more aggressive than me,” Cocciaretto said. “I think that’s why she won the second.
“Then I tried to change my game a little bit in the third, and it was really tough, but I’m happy about my win.”
Cocciaretto’s opponent in the final is Lauren Davis, the 3rd American she will face this week after the World No 84 breezed past fellow qualifier Blinkova, 6-3 6-3, in the day’s second semi-final.
Blinkova, ranked 72, had cruised past Davis, 6-2 6-2, in their only prior meeting at 2019 New Haven, but the American got her revenge after 91 minutes of play on Friday, winning 83% of her first-service points as she eased past the Russian into the 4th singles final of her career.
It is a long-awaited return for the 29-year old former Top 30 player, who is into her first final since winning her maiden title in Auckland 6 years ago.
Davis has not dropped a set all week, including in her 2 qualifying wins, and took out fellow-American Sloane Stephens, the 4th seed, 6-2 6-2, in the 1st-round.
“I’m really excited, this is my first final in a while,” Davis said on court, after her win. “I’ve got a lot of matches under my belt and I have a lot of confidence, really just enjoying myself.
“So kind of just soaking it all in right now.”
Cocciaretto defeated Davis, 6-3 6-0, in their only previous meeting, in the 2021 Guadalajara quarter-finals.
“We’ve played before a couple years ago, and also practiced quite a bit,” added Davis, looking ahead to the final. “I think we’re similar height, and she’s quite the fighter, she’s a really good competitor.
“So I think that’s going to make for an exciting final tomorrow.”