Hey, hey, hey, hey. Forza. Vamos. Hey, hey, hey.
She stands at 5 feet, 4.5 inches tall (or so the stats say). She has wins and near wins against some of the biggest names in tennis. She has been No. 1 in the world in doubles. She holds the Career Grand Slam in doubles. She has made it to the final of a Grand Slam (French Open). She has been in the top 10 of the WTA. She has made it to the semifinals of the US Open. She has been a Fed Cup stalwart for more years than I care to remember, both in singles and doubles.
Tomorrow, she will be playing for the biggest singles title of her career at the WTA Tour level when she plays Strycova in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Premier event. For all intents and purposes Sara Errani is a force to be reckoned with. And yet she is met with dismissal each time her name appears in a draw (sometimes even by me) and this has to do with her serve (or lack thereof).
Errani reminds me of myself. Years ago when I started to play tennis my serve sucked (truth be told it still does). I have often watched Errani’s matches because I am fascinated that someone whose serve sometimes never moves the radar gun is able to defend the lack of this crucial weapon to make it deep into tournaments and especially against players with bigger and better serves.
When I decided to write this article I looked up Errani’s stats for 2015 especially as it relates to her serve. The results can be found here. There are 2 stats that jump out at me. Errani’s first serve percentage (top 10) and return points won (top 10). Errani’s ability to return serve is what has kept her as a top player for many years. In addition, her ability to break the serves of big servers is something that has escaped the notice of commentators who call her matches.
Errani just does not play loopy high top spin shots. She has almost every shot in her arsenal. In her match today against Svitolina, she not only ran her opponent ragged, but she confounded her with low slices, drop shots and and angles and whenever Svitolina decided to venture to the net, she was inevitably passed. Errani makes tennis look effortless. She is as tough as nails. People speak about Serena and Sharapova and refer to them as mentally tough, but I think that if commentators paid more attention to what was happening on court rather than read the talking points handed to them by PR agents they would see that one of the toughest players out there is Errani.
While much has always been made of the game of accomplished players like Serena, Maria, Azarenka and others, maybe its time for us to look at those players who while they may not have the presence of the aforementioned ladies, give a good account of themselves from time to time and are a joy to watch.
Next time you see Errani’s name on a draw sheet, don’t rule her out. And if you go to a tournament, go watch one of her matches. Ignore the serve. Appreciate the fight. You will come away with a renewed respect for this Fighting Italian (hat tip to Diane Dees).