In a week that saw five seeded players exit by the time Palermo's second round was complete, order has been restored—at least in in the top half of the draw.
Martic fended off qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), in two hours and 19 minutes. The Belarusian, taking the court for the sixth time in seven days, served for the first set at 5-4. Martic dug in to take the next two games, and while she missed a set point in the 12th game when Sasnovich’s serve in the ad court took a higher-than-expected bounce, had the final say in the tiebreaker.
The world No. 15 opened a 4-1 double break advantage in the second, only to see it evaporate after failing to convert three match points at 5-4. Her frustration came out when she slammed her racquet with the match in her hands again at 6-5, as a backhand unforced error put her in a 15-40 hole. Though Sasnovich leveled to reach a second tiebreak, Martic rebounded to end the contest with a well-placed serve.
“I had to adjust from yesterday. The points were way longer, it was more physical,” Martic 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.”
Kontaveit ended the hopes of 19-year-old wild card Elisabetta Cocciaretto, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1. In the two sets she won, Kontaveit exposed the Italian’s second serve, winning 15 of 17 points. A pair of unforced errors by Cocciaretto set the Estonian up with her first match point, which she converted to reach the semifinals 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.”
Both Martic 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 Martic took their quarterfinal clash in Dubai, 7-6 (4), 6-1.
Later, Fiona Ferro brushed aside wild card Sara Errani, 6-4, 6-1. The Frenchwoman, who this week earned back-to-back victories for the first time since the US Open, has won all six sets she's played. On Saturday, Ferro will meet Camila Giorgi in the final four.
The home favorite saved two match points before turning the tide to topple seventh seed Dayana Yastremska, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3. Yastremska served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but Giorgi twice denied the Ukrainian's opportunity to seal the deal by unloading on her returns, resulting in a pair of forced errors. Giorgi ultimately completed the comeback victory after two hours and 52 minutes.
“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.”
Giorgi, looking to join Sara Errani, Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci as Italians to win this tournament, will take on Ferro for the first time.