PALERMO, Italy - After nearly five months without tennis, WTA players returned to action at the 31st Palermo Ladies Open with top seed Varvara Gracheva cruising and Aliaksandra Sasnovich battling through in the first round of qualifying. 

Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska was the first player of the day to win a match, recording a straightforward victory, 6-3, 6-1 against Reka-Luca Jani, in an hour and 16 minutes. Podoroska started the season on an impressive 14-match winning streak in her mission to secure a spot in the Tokyo Olympics.

Oceane Dodin in action at the Palermo Ladies Open

Jimmie48 Photography/WTA

Gracheva also made quick work of her first-round challenge, advancing past local wildcard Matilde Paoletti dropping only a set, 6-0, 6-1 in 59 minutes. The Russian 19-year-old was one of 2019’s under-the-radar threats, cutting her ranking from World No.447 to World No.105 after posting a 70-26 win-loss record overall. 

Former World No.30 Aliaksandra Sasnovich also recorded a victory in her first match in Palermo. Sasnovich struggled to maintain her rhythm in a tightly contested opening set, but settled into the second set to record a 7-5, 6-2 victory against Russia’s Anastasiya Komardina.

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Also into the second round of qualifying in the Sicilian capital, No.4 seed Oceane Dodin took down Italian wildcard Federica Bilardo, 6-3, 6-1, No.5. seed Liudmila Samsonova defeated Tereza Mrdeza 6-3, 6-4, and No.7 seed Kaja Juvan turned around a set deficit to win 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 against Magdalena Frech. Lara Arruabarrena showed her skills on clay to upset No.3 seed Greet Minnen 6-0, 2-6, 6-1.

Read more: Bolsova, Gracheva lead Palermo qualifying draw

No.8 seed Ysaline Bonaventure defeated Indy De Vroome in one of the most dramatic matches of the day. Lasting two hours and 45 minutes, Bonaventure had to come back from a set down and save three match points in nail-biting second set tiebreak. The Belgian finally pulled away in the third, recording a hard-fought 3-6, 7-6(9), 6-2 victory. 

More to follow…