Camila Giorgi was the only Italian to make it into the semi-finals of the Palermo Open on Friday, and she had to save match points against Dayana Yastremska to get there, while top seed Petra Martić came through a tight battle with Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Anett Kontaveit took three sets to see off 19-year old Elisabetta Cocciaretto.
I had to adjust from yesterday. The points were way longer, it was more physical. I tried to mix up my serve and gain some advantage there. She returns really well, especially on the first serve. She likes to get in on my kick, so I knew I wasn’t going to have many free points. I tried to stay sharp there. Petra Martić
In a week that saw five seeded players exit by the time Palermo’s second round was complete, order has now been restored in the top half of the draw as both Martic and Kontaveit came through their respective quarters after overcoming a pair of competitors eager to extend their winning ways.
In the bottom half, Giorgi took 2 hours and 52 minutes to claim her spot in the last four, 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3, after saving 2 match points when she was 4-6, 4-5 down.
The Italian then denied Yastremska, the 7th seed, twice, by unloading on her returns, resulting in a pair of forced errors from the Ukrainian, before performing a comeback by winning the tiebreak 7-5.
With the momentum on her side, Giorgi claimed the final 4 games of the decider from 3-2 down, crossing the finish line and staying on the title course.
“I needed to take the chances in the right way,” Giorgi told press afterwards. “I took them in [her] match points, and I started to be more aggressive in my game.
“I started to move more forward, and tried to dominate the game.”
It was the final match of the day, lasting until just before 1:30am local time
Giorgi is looking to join Sara Errani, Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci as Italians to win this tournament and Fiona Ferro from France for the first time.
Ferro, who was a quarter-finalist here a year ago, was dominant in her 6-4 6-1 triumph over Errani, a two-time Palermo champion, in an hour and 28 minutes.
Serving at 71%, Errani couldn’t do much with her initial shot, dropping 60% of the points and getting broken 6 times from 10 chances offered to Ferro.
From 3-1 down in the first set, the Frenchwoman claimed 11 of the last 12 games to topple her opponent and sprint into the semis, leaving Giorgi as the last Italian standing in Palermo.
Petra Martić prevailed against the tenacious Sasnovich, 7-6(5) 7-6(3) in an encounter that lasted 2 hours and 18 minutes and in which the Croat had the upper hand at the pivotal moments to beat the Belarusian for the fourth time in five matches.
Martić won 8 points more than the qualifier, fending off 7 out of 11 break chances and earning 4 breaks from 7 opportunities.
They both served well in the opening 8 games and it was Sasnovich who grabbed the first break at 4-4, serving for the set in game 10.
Martić broke back to 15 to stay in touch, repelling 3 break chances in game 11 and wasting a set point on the return at 6-5 to reach the first tiebreak where she gained two vital mini-breaks, and earning a valuable boost ahead of set two.
The world No 15 opened a 4-1 double-break advantage in the second, only to see it evaporate after failing to convert 3 match points at 5-4.
Sasnovich, however, bounced back, saving 3 match points at 4-5 to level the score and with back-to-back breaks in games 11 and 12, and the Croat’s frustration came out when she slammed her racket with the match in her hands again at 6-5, as a backhand unforced error put her in a 15-40 hole.
Although Sasnovich levelled to reach a second tiebreak, Martić clinched it with 4 mini-breaks to seal the deal and advance into the semis with a well-placed serve, 7-3.
“I had to adjust from yesterday. The points were way longer, it was more physical,” Martić said in her post-match Zoom press conference. “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, I managed to pull through.
“I tried to mix up my serve and gain some advantage there. She returns really well, especially on the first serve. She likes to get in on my kick, so I knew I wasn’t going to have many free points. I tried to stay sharp there.”
Martić, who was coming off a three-set win a day earlier, added: “I had two tough matches and my body’s holding up well. I have no major issues … just maybe soreness that I’m sure we all have in the first tournament back.
“It feels nice to be reminded of how it feels to be that kind of tired. But all in all I’m happy. I had some good weeks of practice and it’s paying off.”
The 4th seed Anett Kontaveit needed an hour and 54 minutes to dismiss the young Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto, 6-1 4-6 6-1.
Kontaveit exposed the Italian’s second serve, winning 15 of 17 points.
Although the Estonian got broken 3 times in the second set, she dominated the first and third with a rock-solid performance on both serve and return to march into the semi-finals.
Cocciaretto gave her best to stay in touch, but after taking only 13 points on the return in sets one and three, she was ultimately unable to deal Kontaveit’s pace.
A pair of unforced errors by Cocciaretto set the Estonian up with her first match point, which she converted to reach the semi-finals after an hour and 55 minutes.
“It was really tough tonight. She played great and she had the home crowd behind her,” Kontaveit said in an interview with the World Feed. “I’m really happy with the way I fought in the third set and I managed to turn it around really well in the end.
“I feel like I’m moving and don’t feel tired or anything. Doing fitness for 20 weeks in a row paid off, I guess.”
The Estonian next meets Martić and is looking forward to the match.
“I was doing fitness for a long time,” Kontaveit said of the break due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I started playing a lot of tennis 1½ months ago.”
Both Martić and Kontaveit are looking to triumph on their Palermo debut and raise a second WTA singles crown.
The two faced off for the first time not long before the tour shut down, when Martić took their quarter-final clash in Dubai, 7-6(4) 6-1.