Under a Saturday evening sky in Sicily, it was Lucia Bronzetti who won a battle between Italians and claimed a spot in her first career Hologic WTA Tour final.
World No.78 Bronzetti overcame her higher-ranked compatriot Jasmine Paolini 0-6, 6-3, 6-3 to move into Sunday's final at the 33rd Palermo Ladies Open. Bronzetti took a hair over two hours to obtain the comeback victory over World No.61 Paolini.
"I'm very happy to reach my first final here in Palermo," Bronzetti said afterward. "We played good, we fought a lot, and I'm so happy to play again tomorrow."
Bronzetti fought back from a break down in the third set to book a spot in the championship match in her home country. Bronzetti converted six of her 10 break points while Paolini went 3-for-7 in that statistic.
After being bageled in the first set, Bronzetti never dropped serve in the second set to level the match. In the third set, Paolini used a bevy of fiery forehands to garner an early break at 2-1, but Bronzetti broke back immediately, then saved three break points in the next game to reach 3-2.
A deft backhand winner gave Bronzetti a crucial hold for 4-3, and she broke for 5-3 after drawing errors from Paolini in the next game, including a double fault on break point. Serving for the match, a forehand winner wrapped up a love hold and sent Bronzetti into her first final.
"I think in the second set I increased my level of the game, and I hit more powerful, I put more pressure, and at the end I won," Bronzetti said.
Bronzetti will face No.6 seed Irina-Camelia Begu in the final, after Begu triumphed over No.4 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a grueling 3-hour and 12-minute encounter.
Romania's Begu finished up the nightcap semifinal at 1:40 a.m. local time, moving into her ninth career singles final on the Hologic WTA Tour. Begu, who currently has a 4-4 win-loss record in finals, will be seeking her first title since 2017 Bucharest.
Sorribes Tormo has been a regular in epics this season, with this match being her fifth of the year that has gone over three hours. But Begu stopped the marathon woman, winning 80 percent of her first-service points to eke out the victory.
After splitting the first two sets, Begu saved three break points in a lengthy third-set hold for 2-2. Begu then fired a rally backhand down the line to earn a 3-2 lead and her first of two consecutive breaks.
Begu failed to serve out the match at 5-2, but she successfully converted her first match point at 5-4 with a winning forehand at net. With that shot, Begu set up a first meeting with Bronzetti, with the Palermo title on the line.