PALERMO, Italy - Rising French star Fiona Ferro eased into a second straight 31st Palermo Ladies Open quarterfinal, upsetting No.8 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, 7-5, 6-2.
Ferro navigated through a tense opening set to score her second career win over a Top 30 player to reach the last eight after one hour and 49 minutes on Center Court.
"I think it was a good match from me today," she explained after the match. "I had a slow start because she has really powerful shots, so it took a bit of time to get used to this. It got better and better from me, so I'm very happy with my performance today."
Aged 23, Ferro began 2020 by cracking the Top 60 for the first time, having reached the second round of the Australian Open and the Round of 16 at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy - falling to eventual runner-up Elena Rybakina in the latter.
"I didn't really rest between March and May because I have a court at home where I can practice. I was trying to schedule things to where it was one day of tennis, the next day, fitness. At the end of the lockdown, my coach came to the south of France and we practiced for a few months on hardcourts. The French Federation organized three tournaments in July, two of which I won, so I was lucky to play some matches then."
Alexandrova enjoyed an even brighter start to the season, going one round better in Melbourne and winning her first career WTA title at the Shenzhen Open - defeating Rybakina in the final.
Playing Ferro for the first time, she took a quick 2-0 lead before the Frenchwoman quickly leveled and continued pressing on return, earning three break points as the two hurtled towards five games apiece.
"I think I served well in the important moments, especially at the end of the first set. When I won the first set, I got more relaxed, and so my shots were more powerful and faster. That made things more difficult for her."
Ferro nabbed the crucial break from there, taking the set with a service winner and rode a five-game winning streak into the second set before Alexandrova got back on the board. The No.8 seed clawed back to a one-break deficit, but Ferro remained in control, surging ahead to serve for the match at 5-2.
Alexandrova made a brave last stand, earning a pair of break points; Ferro saved the first with an aggressive putaway and the second by outlasting the Russian in a baseline rally. While Alexandrova saved a first match point, two errant forehands helped the unseeded Ferro over the finish line in just short of two hours.
"I tried to see the break as an opportunity to improve and get better. I think I have in some parts of my fitness, and improved some parts of my tennis. Those two months definitely weren't wasted time."
Ferro will next take on either Kristyna Pliskova or former French Open finalist Sara Errani, who will face off Wednesday evening.
"I've never played against Kristyna but I know she's a big hitter with a big serve. Sara, I played her in Rabat qualifying last year, and I won; she's a big fighter, so they have completely different games. I'll be ready, whether it's Sara or Kristyna."