WTA 125, Florence, Italy | On her home soil, Jasmine Paolini lifted the second WTA 125 trophy of her career after defeating Taylor Townsend in the Firenze Ladies Open final on Sunday.
The No 4 seed delighted home fans by defeating the American, 6-3 7-5 to claim the inaugural title in Italy.
Paolini and Townsend were continuing resurgent form following strong performances in Rome last week, and had to battle hard to reach the title match.
The Italian was taken to 3 sets in all of her matches prior to the final, a run that included two overtime tiebreaks, over Britain’s Katie Swan, 6-4 4-6 7-6(7), in the 1st-round and 8th-seed compatriot Lucia Bronzetti, 7-6(11) 2-6 6-2 in the semi-finals.
Townsend had to save a match point in the second set, then overturn a 3-0 double-break deficit, in the other semi-final to triumph over another home favourite, 6th-seeded Sara Errani, 4-6 7-5 7-5, while the American had also denied another Italian, 20-year-old wild-card Matilde Paoletti, 6-3 6-2, in the quarters.
She could o’t pull off a trio of wins over home players in the final, though , in what proved to be a battle of the forehands, with Paolini the more aggressive and most accurate as the World No 65 tallied 18 winners to 8 unforced errors compared to Townsend’s 12 winners and 18 miscues.
Paolini’s power also successfully kept Townsend at bay from her net-rushing, and was also resilient in key passages of play, repeatedly challenging the American serve in the second set.
The 27-year-old fended off the first 4 break points she faced in that set, but Paolini finally broke through at 5-5, then saved 3 break chances against her to close out the title on her second championship point.
Notable early upsets came courtesy of No 294-ranked Paoletti, posted the first Top 100 win of her career over No.5 seed Jule Niemeier 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in her opener, and backed that up by saving two match points to beat fellow Italian Nuria Brancaccio 2-6, 7-6(2) 6-4 in the second round, while Slovenia’s Kaja Juvan, ranked 130 and returning from a two-month hiatus following the death of her father, Robert, took out American No 2 seed Claire Liu, 6-0 5-7 6-4, in the 1st round before falling 7-6(6) 6-3 to Canadian Eugenie Bouchard in the second.
In a quarter=final clash of former Grand Slam finalists, Errani advanced over Bouchard when the Canadian retired trailing 6-3, 1-0 due to a left knee injury.
WTA 125, Paris, France | Frenchwoman Diane Parry won the WTA 125 Trophee Clarins title on home soil after America’s Caty McNally withdrew from their final due to a leg injury, while Anna Danilina & Vera Zvonareva saved 3 championship points en route to the doubles title.
Parry, who reached Junior World No 1 in 2019, will next contest her nation’s Grand Slam event at Roland Garros, where she famously ousted defending champion Barbora Krejcikova in the 1st-round last year.
The World No 109 dropped her first set of this week’s event to her countrywoman Selena Janicijevic, but the 20-year-old won every set she played after that, including in upsets of Czech No 4 seed Linda Noskova in the quarter-finals and No 2 seed Varvara Gracheva from Russia in the semi-finals.
McNally, the World No 62, was also looking for the second WTA 125 title of her career, but the ailing American could not take the court for the final.
“It’s been a great week here at this amazing club,” McNally said during the trophy presentation. “Congrats to Diane, you’ve had a great week, I was looking forward to playing today.
“I’m really happy for you that you’re doing so well, and keep it up. Good luck at the French Open.”
The doubles final took place on Saturday, where Danilina & Zvonareva saved 3 championship points and edged No 1 seeds Nadiia Kichenok & Alycia Parks, 5-7 7-6(2) [14-12], to take the title.
Top seeds Kichenok & Parks held their championship points at 9-8, 10-9 and 11-10 in the match tiebreak, but Danilina & Zvonareva fended them off before converting their 2nd championship point after 2 hours and 2 minutes of back-and-forth play.
This is the second WTA 125 doubles title for Russia’s Zvonareva, who has also won 3 Grand Slam titles in women’s doubles (2006 US Open, 2012 Australian Open and 2020 US Open), and the first WTA 125 doubles title for 2022 Australian Open women’s doubles finalist Danilina.
WTA 250, Strasbourg, France | Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, who missed much of last year due to pregnancy, claimed her first WTA Tour-level win in Strasbourg on Sunday, beating American Louisa Chirico, 6-4 7-6(1) in her opening match.
Svitolina, a former World No 3, made her return at the Charleston Open, losing to Yulia Putintseva in a very close 3-set match, and has played a few ITF events since.
The match lasted an hour and 53 minutes and featured multiple breaks of serve, with Svitolina finishing proceedings by saving 10 of 15 break points and converting 6 of 11 break points on Chirico’s serve.
Svitolina next will play New Zealand’s Erin Routliffe, who got into the main draw as a lucky loser and, in her 1st-round, defeated Su-Wei Hsieh, who qualified for the main draw, 7-6(2) 1-6 6-1.
Russian 6th seed Varvara Gracheva also moved into the round-of-16 of the French event, the World No 44 needing around 2 hours and 30 minutes to defeat China’s Zhuoxuan Bai, prevailing 6-3 3-6 7-6(3) against the lucky loser.
Gracheva’s next opponent is local hope, Selena Janicijevic, who defeated countrywoman Oceane Dodin, 2-6 6-1 6-4 in their round-of-32 meeting.
Meanwhile, another Chinese player, 3rd-seeded Zhang Shuai suffered a lopsided routing at the hands of Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam, 6-0 6-0, in just 48 minutes.
The World No 92 won 94% of her first-serve points and 86% points on return on Zhang’s second serve, while she did not face any break points and converted 6 of the 7she held on her higher-ranked opponent’s serve.
Alizé Cornet also lost in the 1st-round after Bulgarian Viktoriya Tomova got the better of the French favourite in a match that crossed the 3-hour-mark, 3-6 6-4 7-5.
Another Frenchwoman, though, Clara Burel, upset Sorana Cirstea, the 5th seed from Romania, 7-6(5)7-5, and will play Estonian Kaja Kanepi, who saw off Wang Xinyu, 6-3 6-2, on Sunday.
In other Monday results, Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was a 6-3 6-1 winner over qualifier wild-card Angelic Gabueva; Lauren Davis, the 7th-seeded American, beat another French qualifier wild-card, Sarah Iliev, 7-5 6-0; Emma Navarro, another American, took out Czech Tereza Martincova, 6-2 6-3; and 4th-seeded Bernarda Pera, also from the USA, outlasted France’s Diane Parry, 6-4 4-6 6-1.
WTA 250, Rabat, Morocco: No 2 seed Sloane Stephens outplayed her old rival Vera Zvonareva at the Grand Prix Son Altesse Royale La Princesse Lalla Meryem, 6-4 7-5, in an hour and 46 minutes, the American winning 65% of her first-serve points to the Russian’s 54%, and saving 3 of the 5 break points she faced while converting 6 of 11 break points on Zvonareva’s serve.
Heading into the match, Zvonareva had held a 1-0 win-to-loss record against the American, but that win had come way back in 2010, in the 2nd-round in Indian Wells.
Top seed Martina Trevisan also clinched a spot in round 2 after the Italian’s opponent, Nuria Parrizas Diaz from Spain, retired after she won the first set, 6-2.
The 2022 French Open semi-finalist will play Croatian qualifier Jana Fett, who came through against 22-year-old Sada Nahimana, 6-0 6-4.
Earlier, Nahimana became the first Burundian woman to make an appearance in the main draw of a WTA tournament.
A former Top 20 junior and currently ranked 255 in the world, Nahimana made it to one ITF event final this year, the $25k event in her native, Burundi, in April.
She won the point of the match when she turned defence into attack midway through the first set, and she twice led by a break in the second before Fett’s experience told.
As a junior, she lived and trained at the ITF Training Centre in Casablanca for 6 years and, in 2022, she made her WTA qualifying debut in Rabat. These days, she is based at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in Nice.
Mayar Sherif, the 3rd seed, defeated Ukrainian Kateryna Baindl, 6-1 6-3, in their opening-round match, and the Egyptian takes on Argentine Julia Riera, who dispatched France’s Kristina Mladenovic, 6-3 6-0, in their first-round encounter.
Following this loss, Mladenovic is now on a 4-match losing streak on the WTA Tour, her last win coming at the Dubai Open, where she won the 1st-round of qualifiers.
In other results, Yulia Putintseva, the 6th seed from Kazakhstan beat Aya El Aouni, a local wild-card, 6-1 6-4; France’s Leolia Jeanjean outlasted Gabriela Lee from Romania, 7-6(4) 5-7 6-3; and American Peyton Stearns dismissed Panna Udvardy from Hunagry, 6-1 6-1.