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Zakopalova Edges Pennetta In Palermo

There wasn't much separating Klara Zakopalova and Flavia Pennetta - a close head-to-head, great showings at Wimbledon, born a day apart, even - but this time, Zakopalova got the victory.

Published July 09, 2013 12:03

Zakopalova Edges Pennetta In Palermo
Klara Zakopalova

PALERMO, Italy - Klara Zakopalova edged longtime rival Flavia Pennetta in a tough first round draw at the XXVI Italiacom Open on Tuesday, rallying from 3-0 down in the third set to pull off the victory.

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After the pair split two relatively quick sets, Pennetta came out like a house on fire in the third set, breaking, holding then breaking again for that 3-0 lead. But the No.4-seeded Zakopalova is known for being streaky and she lived up to that, winning six games in a row to beat the Italian, 62 26 63.

"I had played Flavia a lot of times before so I knew it would be very tough," Zakopalova said. "She's very experienced like me and she has almost exactly the same age as me. We always have battles."

Zakopalova is now nearly even with Pennetta in their head-to-head series, though the Italian still leads 5-4 - but there's one stat Zakopalova will never surrender to Pennetta, that she was born just one day ahead of the Italian, back on February 24th, 1982 (Pennetta was born on February 25th, 1982).

Both players were coming off great Wimbledons, too - Zakopalova fell third round but just barely to Li Na, 8-6 in the third set, while Pennetta made the fourth round before falling to Kirsten Flipkens.

"Wimbledon was great for me," Zakopalova said. "It gave me a lot of confidence, because I had lost so many matches going into Wimbledon. Now I'm feeling a little bit more confident with my game again."

The other four seeds in action had mixed results, with No.2 seed Roberta Vinci saving a set point in the tie-break and eventually beating Italian qualifier Giulia Gatto-Monticone in straight sets, 76(6) 63, and No.5 seed Lourdes Domínguez Lino defeating Alexandra Dulgheru by retirement, 5-1, when the Romanian had to stop because of a toe injury, but two seeds falling - No.6 seed Irina-Camelia Begu lost to Renata Voracova, 75 62, while No.8 seed Karolina Pliskova fell to Dinah Pfizenmaier, 75 75.

"Playing in the evening isn't easy, because the conditions are different than they would be earlier in the day," Vinci said. "But I'm happy to be in the second round here in Palermo, and I really want to congratulate my opponent, Giulia, for her brilliant performance tonight. She is a very talented player."

Elsewhere, Palermo's most decorated champion was also a winner, as Anabel Medina Garrigues came back from ahead to beat German qualifier Kristina Barrois, 64 46 62. Medina Garrigues was originally up 64 41 when Barrois snuck out five straight games and the second set - but Medina Garrigues, who has won this tournament a record five times, cruised through the third set to put her away.

"It was tough - I was a set and 4-1 and a ball for 5-2, then I couldn't win the game and everything turned for her," Medina Garrigues said. "I was lucky that in the third set I started to play very well again and was putting pressure on her from the beginning, and in the end I could finish the match."

Medina Garrigues is an incredible 33-4 at the event now, winning the whole thing in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2011. Last year she was bounced in the first round - she has already righted that wrong.

"It's always a great experience here," she said. "I've won here five times, so I'm always happy to come here, and this year the weather has been very good and I'm really excited to play here this year.

"Palermo is really nice. I feel like I'm at home in Valencia. I always enjoy it here."

Also among Tuesday's winners was last year's runner-up, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, and Italy's own Karin Knapp, who is fresh off the first Grand Slam second week of her career over at Wimbledon.

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