The last woman to have reached the US Open who mostly relied on her legs and heavy topspin was Spaniard Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who won the title in 1994.
Italy’s Sara Errani may not reach the 2012 US Open final, but the fast and determined Italian certainly won’t give in. She has had a career year, winning four clay court titles in Acapulco, Barcelona, Budapest and Palermo, reaching her first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros and yesterday, she and the woman whom she will face in her quarterfinals, Roberta Vinci, took over the No. 1 doubles ranking.
It has been a dream year for the late blooming 25-year-old.
On Monday, she ran No. 6 Angelique Kerber into the ground in a 7-6, 63 victory. Errani played high, she played low, she played short shots and she played long. She never seemed tired and she was always enthusiatic.
“For sure it's not easy to play against opponent like this that mix the game,” Kerber said. “I knew this before the match. I know that she will play a lot of spin and also some drop shots, but, I tried to be aggressive. She was better today.”
Errani changed racquets earlier this year and apparently is thrilled with her new frame, which is much longer and gives her more power and also control. But it’s not just her equipment which has helped her advance. It’s her game, her court sense and her ability to take care of even the smallest of opportunities. She may only stand 5-feet-4, but she has the court vision of a giant. Plus she's in tiptop shape and relishes any match that she can dig herself into.
“It was incredible fight,” she said of her win over Kerber. “It was very difficult match mentally and also physically. First set was one hour and 15, I think. So it was also very tactic match, I think. Trying to wait the other, try to do the better thing for me, the worst for her. So it was strange game also sometimes.”
One of the reasons why talented players never made it to the second weeks of Grand Slam tournaments is that they begin to think about what stage of the tournament they are in and how much further they would like to go before they get there. They think about how they might feel if they raise a big trophy. Sometimes they panic and freeze or they simply lose concentration. Focusing on the here and now can be very difficult when the chance at the sweet dreams lie ahead.
This year, Errani has been able to form a cocoon around her and stay in it until victory has been achieved.
“Try to forget everything, forget where I am,” she said of her big match philosophy. “Just want to forget and try to do what I want to do, put the ball where I want to put.”
Italian players have had good success over the past five years or so with Italy winning Fed Cup titles in 2009 and 2010, Francesca Schiavone winning 2010 Roland Garros and Flavia Pennetta cracking the top 10.
But to also have Errani and Vinci reach No. 1 in doubles is pretty special. They are best friends and seem to anticipate each other’s movements, which is why they have won seven 2012 titles together including Roland Garros. They have reached the US Open quarterfinals as the second seeds and with top seeds Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber having been knocked out, they have more than a fair chance to win the title.
But first things first for Errani, who has designs on her first US Open semifinal. Playing Vinci, who has as much variety as anyone on tour, will be tricky and it likely won’t be very comfortable on a personal level with the two buddies, but at least Errani won't go on court doubting herself which is why she’s sure to put up a tremendous fight.
“Maybe my problem always was that I couldn't believe too much to win with the strong players,’ Errani said.