Istanbul: Azarenka d. Errani

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It all started so promisingly for Sara Errani on Tuesday. Her drop shots, her squash shots, her lobs, her slices, her gets, her volleys: Everything was working. Just as important, nothing was going right for her opponent, Victoria Azarenka, who was trying to shed a heavy coat of rust that had accumulated on her game after two early losses in Asia and three weeks on the sidelines. The last time Errani had won a set from the world No. 2, George W. Bush was the President of the United States; but when she carved deftly under a drop volley to break for a 5-2 lead in the first, it looked like that five-year dry spell was finally coming to an end.

It wasn't. While Azarenka sprayed her shots early—she had little confidence in her backhand—she also got to hit a lot of balls. Rallies, points, and games were long, just long enough for Vika to find her range in time. She broke back twice to make it 5-5, then broke again when Errani served for the set a third time at 6-5. The pattern held in the tiebreaker, as the Italian went up 3-1, only to lose six of the next seven points. By the end, it was Azarenka who was controlling the action with her own drop shots and forays to the net. Errani ended the 88-minute set, which featured eight breaks and 22 break points, with a double fault. She had done everything but win it.

But she hadn’t reached bottom yet. After being broken to start the second, Errani winced in pain and called the trainer. She had strained her right calf during the first-set tiebreaker; it was an injury that would hinder her movement and essentially end the match. While she managed to win two games in the second set, Errani couldn’t move far from the center of the court; any time Azarenka pulled her wide, Errani responded by sending up a mostly hopeless drop shot. After the extended first set, the second went quickly.

Azarenka goes to 1-0 in the White Group with a 7-6 (4), 6-2 win. Afterward, she said it been a difficult start, but that she was happy that she had hung in long enough to “turn it around." Meanwhile, the Vika curse continues for Errani. She, and her calf, are scheduled to come back early on Wednesday against Li Na.

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