Our What's Next? series looks at every player who finished in the ATP or WTA Top 10 this season, and considers their future in three different ways.
You can add Errani to the 2012 breakthrough list. The 25-year-old Italian pulled off the biggest rankings jump of all, moving from No. 45 at the end of 2011 all the way to No. 6 at the close of this year. She reached her first Grand Slam final, at the French Open, a Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open, and a quarterfinal at the Australian Open.
At 5'4", Errani was primarily known as a clay-court grinder and retriever before this season, but she showed surprising versatility on hard courts, and had a successful debut at the indoor year-end championships, where she beat Sam Stosur and lost a classic to Agnieszka Radwanska. With her wails of determination, her kitchen-sink tactics, and her deceptively forceful forehand, Errani made life tough for virtually everyone she played in 2012. Everyone, that is, except Yaroslava Shedova at Wimbledon—the Kazakh put a golden set on Errani in the third round there.
Best Case Scenario: While clay remains her home base, Errani should be optimistic about her immediate chances on the slow hard court in Australia in January. She wore her opponents down last year long enough to reach the quarters. By the end of 2012, she was also playing with more aggression; if she can keep improving that part of her game, more Grand Slam semis should follow. Caroline Wozniacki reached No. 1 with little more than defense and grit.
Worst Case Scenario: Wozniacki is both the model and the anti-model for Errani; the Dane was No. 1, but she finished 2012 on the outskirts of the Top 10. The moral for the Italian may be, with such a hard-hitting Top 3, retrieving will only get you so far these days. She won’t take anyone by surprise in 2013, and defending all of her new points is going to a take major effort.
Australian Open Outlook: Errani loves to run, and that’s a help on Plexicushion in the middle of the Aussie summer. Depending on her draw, and how much help she gets with the Top 3, she could make her second straight Slam semi. But a win over Vika, Maria, or Serena, whatever the round, is a long shot.
More What's Next?
- ATP No. 10, Richard Gasquet
- WTA No. 10, Caroline Wozniacki
- ATP No. 9, Janko Tipsarevic
- WTA No. 9, Sam Stosur
- ATP No. 8, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
- WTA No. 8, Petra Kvitova
- ATP No. 7, Juan Martin del Potro
- WTA No. 7, Li Na
- ATP No. 6, Tomas Berdych
- WTA No. 6, Sara Errani