Sara Sorribes Tormo Shows Heart Once Again in Abu Dhabi

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If you watched Sara Sorribes Tormo on match point of her second round win against Bernarda Pera, you would have thought it was early in the first set. Sorribes Tormo was displaying her usual high energy level and fighting spirit.

Yet, it was far, far from the beginning of the opening set.

Sorribes Tormo was finishing off Bernarda Pera in a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 match that took over three hours and twenty minutes. She never faltered in her extremely consistent, counterpunching style for a second.

Now, you might be wondering why this one match was so impressive. But, it’s a pattern of results more so than any one result. The 24 year-old Sorribes Tormo stands at an unassuming 5 foot nine. She’s at World No. 66, only two off her career high of World No. 64, but she’s constantly nof knocking on the door of the top 20.

What makes Sara Sorribes Tormo special is how she’s able to consistently make herself a threat with her playing style. Sorribes Tormo has extremely quick foot speed, elite anticipation, and the ability to turn defense into offense in an instant. Whether it be with a topspin lob or an angled passing shot, no point is over if Sorribes Tormo is able to get her racquet to the ball.

Sorribes Tormo loves the backhand slice, keeping the ball low and out of the opponents’ strike zones. At the end of a long, grueling match, it’s so tough on opponents to know they will have to continually get low and dig balls out, inches from the ground.

Finally, the depth that the Spaniard employs is top-notch. She almost never misses her heavy-topspin shots, which is incredible, as she’s able to pinpoint her shots right near the baseline time after time.

We are in an age of tennis with the Williams sisters, Karolina Pliskova, and Naomi Osaka, and where current racquet technology emphasizes power. For someone like Sorribes Tormo, who has a very limited amount of power to her game, to carve out her place in the top 100 is very impressive. It’s very Sara Errani-esque.

And while Sorribes Tormo hasn’t had close to the level of results that Errani had in her career, she’s still found her niche in the sport.

In doubles, the Spaniard has won two WTA titles at the International level. And in singles, while she lost her only WTA $125k final to Tamara Zidansek in 2019, she won the biggest title of her career in late 2020. In September, she took down Irina Bara 6-3, 6-4 to win the ITF $80k event in Cagnes-sur-Mer.

The win in Cagnes-sur-Mer was an impressive tenth title for Sorribes Tormo on the ITF Pro Circuit. Sorribes Tormo had clearly mastered the competition at ITF’s, but translating it to the WTA Tour was certainly tougher, as evidenced by her lack of WTA singles title.

But, Sorribes Tormo is starting to put things together in WTA events.  Since the hiatus, she made the quarterfinals of the WTA event in Prague, beating Barbora Strycova and Laura Siegemund before falling to Irina Begu.

Then, somewhat surprisingly (on the surface), she had a run on the indoor hard courts of Ostrava. After qualifying for the event without losing a set, the Spaniard won both of her first two main draw matches in straight sets. This included a 6-1, 6-4 win over current World No. 23 Anett Kontaveit.

Sorribes Tormo completely blunted the Kontaveit power, using the slow courts to track down many Kontaveit shots and return them in uncomfortable positions for the Estonian. Sorribes Tormo was able to do this against Sabalenka for a while, as well. But, eventually Sabalenka’s power was just too much for her to handle and Sabalenka took the match in three sets.

Still, this was a sign that the Spaniard, who is still young especially by tennis standards, especially recently, was able to compete at the highest level of the women’s game. And she’s taken that level and brought it to 2021.

Sorribes Tormo started Abu Dhabi this week with a straight sets victory over 2020 French Open semifinalist Nadia Podoroska. Then came the previously-mentioned win over Bernarda Pera. Now, it might be easy to point to Pera’s 14 double faults, or inability to get a double break in the third set, despite being only two points away.

However, Sorribes Tormo puts a certain level of pressure on opponents that doesn’t necessarily show up on a stat sheet.

Opponents almost assuredly feel the need to go for more on the serve and play with smaller margins on their groundstrokes, so that rallies don’t extend longer and longer. Often, it feels like opponents’ forehand arms might fall off by the time the match is over, they’re hitting so many groundstrokes in a given match.

And big points become even against a player like Sorribes Tormo. Given the Spaniard’s returning prowess, getting up a double break becomes even more vital. Every game in a Sorribes Tormo match is a war.

Following the match with Pera, Sorribes Tormo told the WTA staff, “I’m really happy and proud of my attitude…I was focused only on what I have to do. I wasn’t thinking oh, I have played many points. I would just play and just play and at some point I was sitting at the changeover and I say, oh, it’s already been three hours.”

And it’s this attitude that had Sorribes Tormo winning both 52% of the points, and the match, against the American.

Following the win over Pera, Sorribes Tormo took out World No. 292 Anastasia Gasanova 7-5, 6-3, the first set lasting over an hour. This was a deceptively good win for Sorribes Tormo, as Gasanova had beaten World No. 6 Karolina Pliskova in her previous match.

And while Sorribes Tormo would lose her next match in three sets to Marta Kostyuk, it was another successful tournament for the Spaniard in Abu Dhabi.

Sara Sorribes Tormo doesn’t have the groundstrokes that players like Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka have, where they can end points from the baseline with ease.

But, if she can keep playing with heart and the fighting spirit she is known for, there will be many more triumphant moments in her future.

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