When you look back over the plethora of gifted talent on both the ATP and the WTA tours, there are the usual suspects that always get a mention, and are on the tip of most people’s tongues. I want to take a thorough look at career of someone that doesn’t quite get the recognition she truly deserves––Italy’s Sara Errani.
Errani was facing tennis on the back foot from the very beginning, both with the way she took to a tennis court and the many obstacles in her way. The Italian really made a name for herself from the beginning of the 2012 season. That was the first time we really got to see what she was capable on a singles court, as well as a world-class player in doubles alongside Roberta Vinci. Errani was one of the few advocates and players for combining a consistent schedule of preparation in doubles, sweeping up some of the biggest trophies in doing so, and then had a wonderful upturn in form in singles.
Errani’s partnership with Vinci was as strong as any team during that period of play. Both possessed wonderful variation, immense skill, and angles in the forecourt that were rewarded ever so well in doubles, but most importantly an understanding of one another’s game while enjoying their time together on the same side of the net. They would go on to do what many thought was the unthinkable, earning the career Grand Slam in doubles. Errani and Vinci were to win five doubles Majors in total, but the most impressive was the grass court triumph in 2014, which would prove to be the hardest and the last Major for the pair to win together. They made no secrets of the difficulty of playing on the grass, with the lack of essential time being magnified on that surface and its a surface that favours some of the power players a little bit more. Not many people anticipated they’d ever get over the hurdle of getting to the top on grass, but it would prove to be another big obstacle that Errani toppled despite those odds stacking up as the wait continued.
It was during that phase between 2012 and the middle of 2015 where Errani’s singles career really elevated, again displaying that she could toughen it out with some of the bigger hitters in the sport. Essentially, like I said earlier, Errani was playing the sport on the back foot, with heavyweight hitting coming from the likes of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and a prime Victoria Azarenka at the time and they were taking the women’s game to great heights themselves. Despite all of this, Errani carved a career together of making the Top 5 in the singles rankings, being a stalwart in the Top 10d, and what really stood out was the run she made to the Roland Garros final in 2012, where she lost to Maria Sharapova. The real stand-out moment in the Italian’s career in singles without a doubt.
What was the Italian really renowned for during her moments in the sun though? I think most people will remember Errani for her attitude on a tennis court, working hard for all of her points, determined to be the last person standing from rally to rally and having a fierce mentality to win her points the hard way no matter what. She was never blessed with a strong serve, something she adjusted and altered over the course of her career. And its perhaps for that very reason why I think she deserves a bit more acknowledgement because she could never rely on quick first serves, an abundance of aces, a serve strong enough to allow her to follow up on the next ball for an outright winner, she was always under pressure to hold serve because of this. This really highlights how efficient and determined she was when the baseline rally got going though, rarely giving an inch away, getting by with her consistency of ball-strike but also the variety she had at her disposal, varying her weight of shot and utilizing the art of the drop shot to good effect too. She perhaps would have many matches where that wasn’t enough and a hard-hitter would power her off the court quite swiftly, but you always got the same approach and application regardless of the opponent or presence coming from the other side of the net.
She would show herself to be one of the better clay-court players of that time frame, winning seven of her nine titles on that surface. Her game lent itself well to the slower clay courts where she could earn the longer points, used her great movement well, but her ranking would go as high as No.5 in the world at the beginning of the 2013 as she continued to also excel on the hard courts on tour too, winning a couple more of her titles on that surface in addition to the clay.
Errani’s time on tour really should be remembered for what she was able to accomplish despite the odds heavily stacked against her and the disadvantages she had in her own game, but maximized everything out of her game to find her way to the top her own way, leading the way for the next generation of Italian prospects with what she did in singles, doubles, and in the three big Fed Cup triumphs for her country.
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