ACAPULCO, México - For the first time in over two and a half years, three Italians are in a WTA final four, after Roberta Vinci, Flavia Pennetta and Sara Errani reached the semifinals of the Abierto Mexicano TELCEL.
Errani, the No.3 seed, was the first of the trio to move through, rallying from an early break down in both sets to end the run of Spanish lucky loser Estrella Cabeza Candela, 64 63. "Estrella and I know each other well and she plays well on clay," Errani said. "I tried to be aggressive and play to her backhand, and also move her around and make her run. It was a tight match but I made a good job today and we'll see if I can keep it up in my next match."
The No.1-seeded Vinci followed with a 57-minute win over Michaella Krajicek, winning 11 straight games from 1-2 in the first set to cruise in straights, 62 60. "The score was easy, but it was definitely tough," Vinci commented. "I played well. I just played my game, hitting a lot of slice and a lot of drop shots."
Vinci and Errani, good friends and doubles partners, will now play each other in the semifinals. They are still alive in the doubles draw this week, too.
"It will be strange to play against a friend," Errani said of the looming match-up. "It's sad that one of us has to win and one has to lose tomorrow."
"It's just a game, we have to remember that," Vinci said. "I will try to focus on my own game - use the drop shots again and try to be aggressive. Sara plays well on clay so it will be tough, and it's not easy to play your best friend."
The No.2-seeded Pennetta was the third Italian through to the final four, recovering from an after-midnight victory against Sofia Arvidsson the night before and rolling past Colombian qualifier Mariana Duque-Mariño, 60 64. Pennetta raced through the first set in just 19 minutes but had to rally to win the second set, winning six of eight games from 0-2 to finish it in straight sets.
"It wasn't easy to play again today after playing so late yesterday, but we both played really well and I'm happy to win," Pennetta said. "It's very hot here, but when you decide to come to Acapulco, you know what you're getting - and you work so hard over the years to play in conditions like this, too."
This is the first time since Palermo in July 2009 that three Italians have made the final four at a WTA event - Pennetta and Errani were also part of that trio, but were joined by the now-retired Tathiana Garbin. Pennetta would beat Garbin in the semifinals and Errani for the title in an all-Italian final that time.
"It's amazing - I hope one of us brings this trophy home," Pennetta added.
The odd woman out that year in Palermo was Germany's Anna-Lena Groenefeld, and this time it will be Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu. The No.4-seeded Begu rolled past Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova at night, 61 62.
"The last time I played Begu was at Wimbledon last year, and it was a very tough match," the Italian said. "She's young and really powerful."