PALERMO, Italy - Former World No.30 Aliaksandra Sasnovich showed signs of her best en route to a decisive 6-0, 6-2 victory over an in-form Jasmine Paolini to reach the quarterfinals at the 31st Palermo Ladies Open.
"I played very well in the first set because I knew how to play against my opponent," she said during her on-court interview. "I've seen a few matches of hers, and she's a really great player. I think the Italian public really likes her, and I like her, too, because I like how she plays!"
Sasnovich last made the last eight of a WTA tournament in 2019, when she kicked off the season by roaring into the Sydney International semifinals as a qualifier. Falling out of the Top 100 before the tours were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Belarusian is ready to make her way back up the rankings after an 72 minute victory on Center Court.
Paolini was fresh off a thrilling win over former World No.10 Daria Kasatkina, and at the age of 24, cracked the Top 100 for the first time late last season, earning a career-high ranking of No.94 back in March.
Facing off for the first time, a long second game proved crucial for Sasnovich, who saved two break points to hold on through the opening set with the loss of just 14 points.
"It's like I'm just waking up!" Sasnovich joked. "I'm ready. I have good fitness. I did a really great 20 weeks of fitness, so it's enough for me to play this tournament."
Though Paolini gave the Italian crowd something to cheer about when she got on the board early in the second set, Sasnovich was undaunted, nabbing a second break to move within sight of the finish line.
Paolini drew Sasnovich into one last long game, one that lasted 10 deuces and featured six break points. The Belarusian gamely saved all six and soon held three match points of her own after pulling off a scintillating drop shot, converting her third to earn the win.
Sasnovich will next play either top seed Petra Martic or fellow qualifier Liudmilla Samsonova, who will face off on Thursday.
"I'm ready for everyone. I only prefer to play the winner!"