PALERMO, Italy – The first WTA draw in six months has ended as qualifying for Palermo Ladies Open this weekend kicks off the tour after his break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Russian Varvara Gracheva and Spanish Aliona Bolsova the first two seeds of the preliminary rounds.
Nineteen-year-old Gracheva was one of the greatest climbers of 2019, rearing from world n.447 to world n. 105 over the course of the season thanks to a phenomenal 70-26 losing streak overall, including reaching the second round at two of the top three WTA draws of his career in Washington and Moscow. This year, Gracheva opened the Top 100 for the first time in March, and is currently perched just outside World No.101; Matilde Paoletti opens against wild seventeen-year-old local joker and could face another nineteen-year-old talent, seed number 7 Kaja Juvan, in the final qualifying round. Slovenian Juvan turned his head in Wimbledon last year extending Serena Williams to three sets in the second round, and saved seven meeting points en route to pass Venus Williams in Acapulco just before the tour was suspended.
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World No. 101 Bolsova, a former historian of Florida Atlantic University, also took a dip last year, particularly on clay, where she reached the fourth round of Roland Garros as qualifier for her Grand Slam debut. The 22-year-old peaked her career in World No.88 last July and will make an offer to pick up where she left off in 2020: Bolsova’s latest accomplishment before the break was a run to the ITF W60 final in Cairo in February. It also opens against a 17-year-old Italian joker, the number 858 of the world Melania Delai.
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A potential final round opponent for Bolsova is his conqueror in Cairo, the 18-year-old teenage phenomenon Marta Kostyuk. The Ukrainian, who drew attention by reaching the third round of the Australian Open 2018 as a fifteen-year-old one year after winning the women’s title, had risen again in the ranking in the months preceding the arrest of the tour, following it according to ITF title W60 in Cairo for qualifying for Lyon, and is now ranked No. 141 in the world.
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However, the unseen Kostyuk landed in the most piled section of the draw. Should he overcome Viktoriya Tomova in the first round, he will face the powerful blow of suit number 5 Liudmila Samsonova or the tricks of his compatriot Lesia Tsurenko, a former world number 23. Samsonova, who reached her first WTA semifinal in Palermo last year, was one of the best fit players in the season that ended, defeating Kostyuk – as well as Kristina Mladenovic and Sloane Stephens – in Brisbane in January; while the current ranking of US Open Tsurenko’s headquarters in World No.139 is more a reflection of his six-month layoff due to an elbow injury last year than his quality.
Tsurenko is not the only former Top 50 who tries to qualify: seed no. 4 Oceane Dodin, who has reached his maximum in his career in the world n. 46 in June 2017 before struggling with health problems including medical vertigo for several years, she was also recovering in 2020, making the quarterfinals of St. Petersburg and Lyon, where the Frenchwoman extended the Australian Open Sofia champion Kenin in three sets. Dodin could face former US Open semi-finalist number 12 and 2009 Yanina Wickmayer in the second round.
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In the meantime, the former number 30 in the world Aliaksandra Sasnovich is the seed n. 6 in the draw and face a potential second round clash with 19-year-old shock runner Hua Hin Leonie Kung if the pair were to defeat Anastasiya Komardina and Tereza Martincova in their openers respectively. Anyone emerging from that section should face seed no. 3 Greet Minnen in the final round, although the Belgian faces a difficult clay encounter outside the bat in the form of the former world number 52 and the double WTA title Lara Arruabarrena.
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The main field of the Palermo Ladies Open 2020 is directed by Marketa Vondrousova, finalist of the World No.15 Petra Martic and Roland Garros, and will also present the fourth finalist of the Australian Anett Kontaveit, the woman of the US Open quarterfinist Donna Vekic and the second Adelaide Dayana Yastremska champion.
Click here to view the entire Palermo 2020 Women’s Open qualifying draw.