As Long As The Fun Remains, Errani Will Play On

Sara Errani (photo: Marta Magni/MEF Tennis Events)

PARMA/WASHINGTON, May 21, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Sara Errani is eight years removed from her career-best World No. 5 ranking. However, the 34-year-old tour veteran from Bologna, Italy, who is now ranked just outside the Top 100 at No. 108, has been enjoying a homecoming week of sorts at the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma, near where she was born and grew up. One thing’s certain: the 5-foot-5-inch (1.64m) Errani remains as fiery a personality and as passionate about her chosen sport of tennis as ever.

As a tournament wild card in this WTA 250-series outdoor clay-court event, Errani won two matches and reached the quarterfinal round before losing to No. 65 Sloane Stephens of the United States, 6-3, 6-0 on Thursday. The heartbreaking loss dropped her 2021 win-loss record to 10-11. She will head off in a few days to try to qualify for the main draw at Roland Garros, where she was once a finalist back in 2012.

After her near three-hour win over Spain’s 50th-ranked Sara Sorribes Tormo on Wednesday afternoon, which ended in retirement for the Spaniard due to a left leg injury at a set apiece and 2-all in the third, the outspoken Errani sat for a lively virtual interview with a trio of English-language tennis reporters – including Tennis TourTalk – before meeting virtually with a group of Italian tennis writers in which she took questions in her native Italian.

Among the English-language highlights from the Errani interview:

• On playing against Sorribes Tormo, whom she played 181 points against and was on court for two hours and 54 minutes in the “Battle of the Saras”: “Every time we play it’s a very tough match for both of us. We play very long points, very long matches. You try to be mentally ready to run a lot.”

• On where she gets her strength and determination from, she said: “Inside of me, I think. … All of the matches I get nervous. It’s not different to be in a qualifier, a Grand Slam or a match here [in Parma] for me. It’s the same every match for me. I try to be ready 100 percent, mentally and physically.”

• On whether Errani has ever played a perfect match. “Never! It’s impossible to not make any mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. You have to accept them and continue. A perfect match? It’s really tough. There are days you can have better or worse feelings.”

Errani, who turned pro in 2002, has been a regular on the WTA Tour since 2006. She’s won nine singles and 27 doubles titles. She’s closing in on 600 career singles wins and her career earnings top $13.5 million dollars. Tennis TourTalk asked her if she has the same sense of appreciation for tennis at age 34 that she did at age 24 – and also, just exactly what would she like to be able to still accomplish?

“I have the same appreciation and love for tennis,” Errani said, breaking into a big smile. “Now, it’s more physical than before. You are older. Your physical [condition] is not the same. Sometimes, also the motivation is not the same, to suffer like I did when I was 18. You are more mentally ready to be there 100 hours. Now, it’s a bit more difficult. I’m here because I have a big passion for tennis. I love tennis and I as long as I’m having fun I will continue to play.”

ATP Tour returns to Dallas, Texas, next year

The ATP Tour announced this week that a new ATP 250 event will be held in Dallas, Texas, from Feb. 6-13, 2022. The indoor hardcourt event replaces the New York Open on the ATP Tour calendar.

The Dallas Open marks the return of pro tennis to Dallas for the first time since 1989, when the former World Championship of Tennis Finals was held in Dallas from 1971-89. The week-long tournament will be held at the Styslinger/Altec Tennis Complex at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

“GF Sports & Entertainment is proud to bring the Dallas Open, an elite ATP Tour tournament, to the premier Styslinger/Altec Tennis Complex in Dallas, beginning in 2002,” said Peter Lebedevs, tournament director, as quoted by the ATP Tour website. “The Dallas Open will shine a global spotlight on the city and be much more than a one-week tennis tournament. In addition to entertainment programming and unique experiential opportunities throughout the tournament, our partnership with SMU and commitment to the community will be year-round and include business, community, tennis initiatives and events. We would like to thank the City of Dallas, our partners at SMU and the ATP for the incredible support during this process to help us bring this world-class tennis event to a world-class city.”

On hand for the Wednesday ceremony in Dallas to announce the Dallas Open was 15-time ATP Tour titlist John Isner and former Dallas Mavericks NBA basketball great Dirk Nowitski.

The Isner Family Foundation, established by John Isner and his family, will serve as a non-profit partner for the event. “I am excited to have an ATP Tour event in my home city and to show off Dallas to the other players on the Tour. The Styslinger/Altec Tennis Complex is a premier venue. The players are really going to enjoy playing there in front of a knowledgeable tennis crowd,” Isner said. “I am also proud to have the Isner Family Foundation be one of the non-profit partners for the Dallas Open and I am looking forward to the positive impact the event will have on the local community.”

What they’re saying

• American Sloane Stephens on reaching her first WTA tour semifinal since 2019 at Madrid following her 6-3, 6-0 victory over Sara Errani of Italy in a match-up of former Top Five players. The 2017 US Open champion won the final eight games of the one hour and 25-minute match.

“I played very well, I’m very pleased with my performance,” Stephens said during her on-court interview after her win against Errani. “Obviously, Sara is a tough player to play and we’ve played many times before. I’m really pleased to get the win today.”

Stephens called her quarterfinal win “super important” and said she’s be enjoying playing on clay. “I’ve been building, I’ve been stringing some matches together, which is really nice. It’s on my favorite surface,” she said. “I’m happy to be in the semifinals and to keep building.”

Stephens hit 26 winners to just 10 by Errani and took advantage of six service break to move into Friday’s semifinal against No. 6 seed Wang Qiang of China.

Grigor Dimitrov, who reached the quarterfinals in this week’s ATP 250 Gonet Geneva Open before losing to No. 102 Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay, on looking ahead to the French Open, which begins a week from Sunday. “It’s great that we have one more week after this to prepare for the French to tune up, to rest up,” the 20th-ranked Bulgarian said.

“For the French Open, I’ve always been very conservative on myself. I’ve had good results and not so good.

“I know when I’m physically well, mentally well, strong enough in my body, I can do the damage and go very far in this tournament.

“I’m here in Geneva playing again and after that one more tournament on clay – it’s the French Open, and here we go. Save the best for last.”

What they’re telling Tennis TourTalk

Coco Gauff on how she turned around a 0-3 deficit in the second set of her all-American quarterfinal match against Amanda Anisimova and turned it into a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach her second consecutive semifinal on clay: “In the second set, I was actually missing a lot of balls in the first three games; I think I lost like seven or eight points in a row. And, then, I honestly decided to go for bigger targets and just focus on hitting the ball deeper instead of trying to hit winners.”

• Colombia’s Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, who has won back-to-back three-set matches against No. 3 seed Zhang Shuai of China and Russian qualifier and fellow 19-year-old Kamilla Rakhimova to reach her fourth career quarterfinal at the rain-delayed Serbia Ladies Open in Belgrade, spoke this week about building confidence: “I just go out and do my best. I don’t think about the [other] person’s ranking. I just try to put the ball in [play] and run for every shot. These are good victories for me. It gives me confidence. I believe more and more in myself, but also to keep working harder and harder.

What they’re sharing on social media

Borna Coric / See you on court soon!

Simona Halep / Helping Madison Keys spread kindness