Qinwen Zheng has earned her career's maiden WTA title after winning the WTA 250 Palermo Ladies Open. The tournament's second seed defeated the home crowd's favorite Jasmine Paolini in Sunday's final in three sets by 6-4 1-6 6-1.
Road to the final
Zheng entered the field of main draw participants as a late wild card receiver, just a few days before the start of event. It occured to be a great decision, as the Chinese did not just regained the on-court confidence and earned the WTA ranking points, but showed up from a really good side during whole the week. The trademark of Zheng's performance during the week in Palermo was an aggressive gameplan resulting with a great amount of winners scored in almost each match. One of the highlight's of this tournament was definitely a battle between Zheng and Mayar Sherif in the semifinals. Both the players approached this match in a really good form, while the Egyptian was on the strike of 13 consecutive wins on clay surface. This was expected to be a high quality tennis battle, and the players did not disappoint there at all. The second seed advanced into final after 3 hours of tight battle, winning by 6-4 4-6 6-1. It was a demanding match for both players, who took the medical timeouts during the course of match. Despite this, the fans could witness some good tennis with more than 60 winners scored, which from 42 were performed by the Chinese.
Jasmine Paolini delivered a ton of great emotions and practically saved the hopes for any good result for the home crowd, as she was the only one Italian to reach out the quarterfinals, despite a really decent field of home representatives playing there in Palermo this week. Paolini fought hard for her good run, as she advanced into semis after three demanding three setters, including the big upset performed on the tournament's top seed Daria Kasatkina in the quarters. The semifinal's clash against the clay courts specialist Sara Sorribes Tormo was the only one ended up in straight sets for the Italian, who secured her spot in the final by winning with a score 7-6(6) 6-0.
Timofeeva's ride during the week in Hungary was a challenging path, as the youngster was rated as an underdog in all of her main draw's matches up to the final. She started the tournament from a win in a tough three-setter against Daria Saville, who is coming back to competition after long injury. The player ranked in 246th place on WTA list before the tournament performed another upsets against Diana Shnaider, Kaja Juvan and Nadia Podoroska, making all the steps to the final done while being rated with pre-match odds, respectively: 3.69, 3.42 and 2.86. Saying that the appearance of Timofeeva in the final was unexpected before the start of Hungarian Grand Prix is an understatement.
Qinwen survives the momentum switches battle
Zheng was a pre-match favorite with an odd 1.54 and started the match really well, as she quickly built the double break gap, moving up into 4-0 lead. Paolini managed to find some rythm after slow start, but the Chinese delivered the win in openning set by 6-4. The second set was highlighted by long and intense second game, where the Italian broke her opponent after 9 deuces by utilizing one of the 6 breakpoints produced there. The reset of the set gone quickly on the favour of 5th seed, who won 20 out of 25 points after this long, and as it occured also a crucial game of the set which ended up with a score 6-1 for the Italian.
While everyone, especially including the home fans, could expect that Paolini has the great momentum on her side to start the third set on front foot, the momentum has changed drastically for the favour of Zheng. The Chinese has regrouped very well after losing the second set easily and switched back into the great levels of play, presented earlier on during the whole week in Palermo. Zheng has overplayed her opponent, striking the high bounce balls aggressively and sticking to the gameplan, which brought her a good effects during whole the tournament before. She has quickly moved up into 5-0 lead and did not blow it away, securing her first career's title with a style.
The chances of both the players were rated simillarly before the final, which had not a clear favorite before the start. Timofeeva grabbed the first set due to being effective in a crucial moments. The Russian has defended first breakpoint faced in 6th game and held for the score 3-3, winning the 3 following games after this to move up into a set lead. Baindl regrouped well and was more concrete from the start of second set, to move the settlement into decider after 90 minutes of play. While the third set was expected to be a delightful battle, it has not happened at all. Timofeeva raised up her level and performed brilliantly, not giving any chance for her more experienced opponent to take up any fight in decisive set. The youngster did not give away any single game, being super effective on serve and putting the big pressure on Baindl throughout whole the set, which allowed her to deliver a sensational victory.
Qinwen Zheng gained two places in the WTA rankings, moving up into 24th place. Jasmine Paolini earned 5 spots due to her final run and advanced into 48th spot. Mayar Sherif gained 7th positions, coming back into 31th place, which is her career's higher rank, achieved a few weeks ago before. While the new Palermo Ladies Open champion takes some rest after her successful run in Italy, other top performers from Palermo can look forward for another good runs on clay this week. Jasmine Paolini and Mayar Sherif head into Hamburg, while Sara Sorribes Tormo will play in Lausanne, as both the places host the WTA 250 events in the last week of July.