Tennis is a late-bloomer’s game these days, and Roberta Vinci has done her part to make it that way. It took the Italian, who will be 31 in February, 15 years on tour to crack the Top 20. But her 2012 breakthrough didn’t turn out to be a last hurrah, or a very late flash in the pan. Over the last two seasons, she has established herself as a reliable member of the WTA’s second-tier, someone can bamboozle even a top-ranked opponent with her one-handed backhand slice and skills around the net.
Theoretically, like most Italians, clay is Vinci’s home turf, but she’s learned how to handle a hard court over the years. Her best Grand Slam result of 2013 came at the U.S. Open, where she reached the quarterfinals for the second straight year. And while she isn’t getting any younger, Vinci has a second reason to stay motivated: Her outstanding doubles partnership with countrywoman Sara Errani. Together they’ve been the world’s top-ranked team the last two seasons.
Ad-In: Vinci, a slice-and-dicer of the old school, doesn’t have the weapons to hit with the women at the top. But she does throw a different look their way. That should be enough to earn her an upset or two, and another trip to a second week at a major.
Ad-Out: Her lack of point-ending power means that Vinci has to do a lot of running, whether it’s up to the net and back, or from one sideline to the other. She also plays doubles at virtually every event. At 31, that won’t get easier.
As we approach the new year, we'll take a closer look at what's in store for the past year's top performers. To read more of our 2014 Season Previews, click here.