Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Italian wild cards, 19 and 33, reach Palermo quarters

   Two Italian wild cards, one young and one old, starred on an eventful day in the Palmero Ladies Open. 
   Elisabetta Cocciaretto, 19, ousted sixth-seeded Donna Vekic of Croatia 6-2, 6-4 on clay today to reach her first WTA quarterfinal. Earlier, 33-year-old Sara Errani overcame a terrible start to upend hard-serving Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
   Halfway through the second round of the first WTA or ATP tournament in almost five months, none of the four Palermo quarterfinalists is seeded. Also advancing were unseeded Fiona Ferro of France and qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus.
   Cocciaretto qualified for the Australian Open in January in her Grand Slam debut and lost to 2016 champion Angelique Kerber, who ascended to No. 1 that September, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round. 
   Vekic, ranked No. 24 at age 24, has improved her year-end world ranking every year starting in 2015 – from No. 105 to No. 101 to No. 56 to No. 34 to No. 19. Last year, she reached her major quarterfinal in the U.S. Open and advanced to the semifinals of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif. 
   Cocciaretto is scheduled to play the winner of Thursday's match between fourth-seeded Anett Kontaveit of Estonia and unseeded Laura Siegemund of Germany in the top half of the draw on Friday.
   Errani, the Palermo champion in 2008 and 2012, lost the first 13 points against No. 69 Pliskova, the 28-year-old twin of No. 3 and former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova. 
   Kristyna Pliskova, a 6-foot (1.84-meter) left-hander, holds the women's record of 31 aces in a match. She blasted seven aces and committed one double fault against the 5-foot-5 (1.64-meter) Errani, who had no aces and three double faults.
   Errani, ranked No. 169 after climbing to a career-high No. 5 in 2013, recorded her 180th career win on clay, more than any other active player. She was suspended for two months in 2017 after failing a drug test, and the suspension was lengthened to 10 months in 2018.
   Ferro, ranked No. 53, upset eighth-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia 7-5, 6-2 to reach her second consecutive Palermo quarterfinal.
   It was Ferro's second victory over a top-30 player. She knocked off No. 16 Wang Qiang in the second round in Strasbourg on clay last year.
   Errani and Ferro, 23, are set to meet for the second time on Friday in the bottom half of the draw. Ferro won 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the second round at Rabat on clay last year.
   Sasnovich backed up her straight-set upset of fifth-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium in the first round with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Jasmine Paolini of Italy.
   Sasnovich, who has tumbled from a career-high No. 30 in 2018 to No. 119, is set to face the winner of Thursday's match between top-seeded Petra Martic of Croatia and qualifier Liudmila Samsonova of Russia on Friday.

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