Cocciaretto stuns Vekic to reach quarter-finals at Palermo; Errani ousts Pliskova - GulfToday

Cocciaretto stuns Vekic to reach quarter-finals at Palermo; Errani ousts Pliskova


Belarus’ Aljaksandra Sasnovich returns the ball to Italy’s Jasmine Paolini during the Palermo Ladies Open match on Wednesday. Associated Press

Wildcard Elisabetta Cocciaretto continued the wave of Italian success at the 31st Palermo Ladies Open as she stunned No.6 seed Donna Vekic to reach her first WTA quarterfinal.

Cocciraretto was coming off of an already impressive result in the first round, which saw her defeat World No.45 Polona Hercog to claim both her first Top 100 win and her first WTA main draw victory.

She continued her breakthrough run against Vekic, dominating the match across both sets to record a 6-2, 6-4 victory after an hour and 35-minute battle.

Cocciaretto and Vekic began the match with a pair of marathon service holds that went to multiple deuce points, with the Italian having to fight off two break points and Vekic one of her own to stay on serve, 1-1. The games set the tone for an intriguing first set: despite the seemingly straightforward 6-2 scoreline the set took nearly an hour as both players stayed toe-to-toe.

It was the Italian who finally broke away late in the set, earning a crucial first break at 4-2 as Vekic’s serve misfired - the Croat struck five double faults in the first set, out of seven in the match. Cocciaretto reeled off the last four games of the set with confidence to win it 6-2, and made it six in a row to open the second with an early break.

Vekic’s service woes continued in the second set, with a double fault helping Cocciaretto to a 2-0 lead. But she struck back right away to get them back on serve, the pair settling into a high-quality clash as the next six games went to the server. But once again, it was Cocciaretto who pulled away in the end, breaking Vekic in the final game to book her place into her first WTA quarterfinal.

After starting the match losing 13 points in a row, Errani showed her grit to turn around a set deficit to dispatch Pliskova 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Errani’s win extends her long history clay-court dominance, recording her tour-leading 180th career win on clay - more than any other active player.

The 2008 and 2012 Palermo champion looked to be in trouble early on as she was overwhelmed by the lefty Pliskova’s firepower. Errani quickly went down a double break to love, 3-0, struggling to get into rallies as the Czech targeted her second serve with booming returns.

Errani saved five set points across three games as she fought to extend her stay in the set, breaking Pliskova’s serve twice in the process to make it 5-3. But the lefty eventually closed out the set with another break to the Errani serve, 6-3.

The Italian came out of the gates swinging in the second set, opening with a break to take a 1-0 lead. Errani improved her first serve percentage from 61% in the first to 90%, and didn’t face a break point as she kept her lead under Pliskova’s pressure, 6-4.

Earlier, Belarusian qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich scored an emphatic win over hometown favorite Jasmine Paolini to reach her first WTA quarterfinal in 18 months at the 31st Palermo Ladies Open.

Sasnovich last made the last eight of a WTA tournament in 2019, when she kicked off the season by roaring into the Sydney International semifinals as a qualifier. Falling out of the Top 100 before the tours were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Belarusian is ready to make her way back up the rankings after an 72 minute victory on Center Court.


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