PALERMO, Italy - Former World No.26 Camila Giorgi rallied from a slow start to dispatch Rebecca Peterson, 7-5, 6-4, to advance into the second round of the 31st Palermo Ladies Open.
Playing her first tournament since reaching the quarterfinals of the Open 6ème Sens in Lyon, Giorgi won a string of six straight games before ultimately defeating the unseeded Swede in one hour and 39 minutes on Center Court.
"At the start of the match, I was a little slow in the legs a bit," she explained after the match. "I played my game more in the second set, playing faster, so I took advantage in the second set."
Giorgi started the year with an impressive run at the Australian Open, upsetting Svetlana Kuznetsova and pushing former champion Angelique Kerber to three sets, but ended up sidelined through the spring and early summer when the WTA and ATP tours were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"At the start of the break, there weren't too many options to practice, but I worked with a physical trainer. It was only in the last few weeks that I got to start practicing again.
"For the most part, I spent time with my family. We've spent so much time traveling over the years, it was nice just to be at home."
Giorgi and Peterson played twice in 2019, splitting their encounters when the Italian retired from their Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open clash last fall. Peterson nonetheless enjoyed a quick start, holding at love and converting the first break point of the match to move ahead 3-1.
"The first match each week is complicated, no matter the circumstances. Of course, it's even more complicated now, after such a long break."
The 28-year-old Italian soon rebounded with the help of her booming ground game, leveling the set and saving two break points in the eighth game. With the score tied at five games apiece, Giorgi went on a tear, sweeping the opening set with a forehand winner. She opened the second set with a 4-0 lead before Peterson could get back on the board.
Serving to stay in the match, Peterson came alive to reel off three games in a row and get within a game of evening the set. Undaunted, Giorgi engineered a match point off a service winner and edged over the finish line as Peterson put a forehand past the baseline.
"It's great to be back on the court, just to be there, playing a good match. That was the most important thing.
Standing between the Italian and another trip to the quarterfinals is Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan, who kicked off Day 2 in Palermo with a gritty upset over No.2 seed and 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova.
Juvan, who proved her mettle earlier in the season with a three-set upset over former World No.1 Venus Williams, was down a set and 5-4 before surviving Vondrousova in over two and a half hours.