Italy’s top player this year, Sara Errani, seemed to come out of nowhere in the women’s professional tennis world. She has quickly made a name for herself in singles with appearances in this year’s French Open final, US Open semifinals and Australian Open quarterfinals. Though Errani has impressed fans and players alike on the tour, she is even more potent in doubles. Errani and her doubles partner, Roberta Vinci, won the doubles title at the French Open and US Open. They were also finalists at the Australian Open and quarterfinalists at Wimbledon. Errani told various media outlets that changing from a Wilson racquet to a Babolat was the reason for her success.
Errani is a crafty all-court player due to her diminutive size. At only 5’5″, she has to learn how to counterpunch and sneak into the net when she notices that her opponent is off balance. She does not have very strong strokes so she has to mix up her techniques. Watching Errani, fans can see a game plan in motion as she figures out what type of baselining will get her to the net easily. She possesses a topspin forehand accomplished mostly by a reverse follow-through (following through over your head) and very slow slices on both forehand and backhand. Her net skills are a very impressive array of angles and drop shots that can only be done in this era by an accomplished doubles player.
Why She Wins
As a crafty counterpunching net rusher, Errani is very good at consistently working to get the ball out of her opponents’ strike zone. While they are preoccupied with getting the ball back in a manner that they do not lose the rally, Errani uses her small frame to sneak into the net and surprise volley points. Most players get to the net by approaching on a short ball (a slow ball that lands in front of the service line). They use their preferred weapon to launch the ball into a corner in hopes that their opponent will give a weak reply. Errani comes to the net anytime she sees the player off balance which makes her much harder to predict. You think you are playing the ball safely crosscourt only to look up and see Errani standing at the net.
Why She Loses
Although Errani is a very strong competitor, she can lose if the opponent can overwhelm her with power. Her strategies are based on making the other player rally the ball back and forth in order to look for a way to make it to the net. That strategy is debunked when the opponent ends most of the points in less than five strokes. Her lack of power can be disastrous if she loses focus on her game plan as well. For instance, if she spends the whole match hitting heavy spin to your backhand, and stops doing that for whatever reason. The other player can jump all over the more predictable rally balls and sneak away with a break. Errani did not do so well on grass this year either. As a matter of fact, she lost the first ever ladies golden set recorded (where one player won all the points in the set) against Yaroslava Shvedova at Wimbledon.
Sara Errani is a player to watch out for. She does not look very flashy. Yet she can defeat some of your favorite players. Sara proves that a crafty player can do well in a game full of baseline bangers. That’s old school!
Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports
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