No.2 seed Zheng Qinwen will face Italy's Jasmine Paolini in the final of the Palermo Ladies Open. Zheng advanced to her second Hologic WTA Tour final by holding off No.3 seed Mayar Sherif 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 in the semifinals. The 20-year-old is bidding to win her first career title on Sunday.
In a late-night finish that saw medical timeouts for both players in the second set, Zheng's firepower ultimately broke down Sherif's grinding baseline game. Zheng fired 42 winners to Sherif's 20 to snuff out the Egyptian's gritty comeback.
"It was a really tough day, especially the weather was very humid for the both of us," Zheng said. "My opponent is a great fighter. She never gives up, she fights for every point. I have a big respect for her."
Zheng began her week in Palermo with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Sara Errani in the first round. Since then, she has had to dig deep for a pair of three-set wins, including a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win over Diane Parry in the Round of 16. After breaking Sherif to seal the opening set 6-4, Zheng took an off-court medical timeout at 2-1 in the second set. She returned with tape on her upper left leg. Sherif won the last three games of the set to force a decider.
But Zheng rebounded quickly. She broke Sherif in the opening game of the second set and surged through the finish line, sealing her place in the final after 3 hours and 1 minute. The match ended after 1:00 a.m.
The final will see a first-time meeting between Zheng and Paolini. The Italian advanced to her first final of the season after defeating Sara Sorribes Tormo 7-6(6), 6-0 in the first semifinal. Ranked No.52, the 27-year-old has enjoyed a stellar week in Palermo. Her win over Sorribes Tormo came 24 hours after a resilient effort to oust top-seeded Daria Kasatkina in the quarterfinals, winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
"For sure, tomorrow everyone who was clapping for me today will be clapping for her," Zheng said. "I'm just going to keep quiet to myself because it's her home. She deserves to be there and have a great competition with me. I'm going to give my best."
Paolini needed another gritty performance to move past Sorribes Tormo, who was into her first semifinal since returning to the tour after a lengthy foot injury. After falling behind an early break, Paolini came through a 79-minute opening set to secure the lead on Sorribes Tormo. Paolini punctuated her aggressive gameplan with her 22nd winner to seal the first-set tiebreak 8-6.
With Sorribes Tormo unable to match Paolini's physical effort, the Italian raced through the second set in 30 minutes. She finished the match with 41 winners to 27 unforced errors, far outpacing the Spaniard's 10 winners and nine unforced errors.