PARIS—It was a scene right out of a tennis player’s worst nightmare: The server—Sara Errani—standing at the center notch, ready to deliver a second serve. The receiver—Andrea Petkovic—poised almost halfway between the far baseline and the service line, eager to leap on the weak delivery.
It was a match-up made in hell for Errani, and the predatory returner Petkovic made the most of it, winning this French Open quarterfinal, 6-2, 6-2.
The two women had to wait three hours to start, and walked out onto Court Philippe Chatrier under still roiled clouds shortly before 5 p.m. By then, the rain had stopped but the wind continued, snapping flags and banners and turning the umbrellas still held open by pessimists inside-out.
Errrani, seeded No. 10, kicked things off with an immediate break followed by a hold for 2-0. It looked as if Petkovic, the 28th-seeded shotmaker, would be in more trouble than Errani, a flexible retriever. But Petkovic found her groove in the fourth game and broke Errani at love with a prodigious drive-volley winner to get back on serve, 2-2.
Petkovic then went to work with heavy groundstrokes, including an impressive string of forehand approach shots. Errani is known for her ability to prolong points and stretch her opponents out of their comfort zone, but Petkovic was having none of it today. The German’s groundstrokes were everything the day was not—crisp and precise. She pushed the envelope in the rallies without forcing the issue to the breaking point.
Petkovic rolled through a service game and then broke Errani again for 4-2. A finalist on this court two years ago, Errani was powerless in the face of the onslaught. When Errani served, Petkovic lined up well inside the baseline. At times it seemed she might just decide to take that puffball serve on the fly and volley it back. She broke Errani again to take the first set.
Errani has a big heart, and as the second set began, bright sunshine flooded Chatrier for the first time in today. Perhaps it lifted whatever gloom had gripped Errani, for she broke Petkovic swiftly in the first game. Undaunted, Petkovic broke right back and continued to press the attack.
But attacking Errani can be a costly proposition. In the third game, Petkovic overhit a few balls, and the errors allowed Errani to break again and take 2-1 lead.
It looked as if Errani might be imposing the tone she wanted at that point, but Petkovic wouldn’t allow it. She redoubled her aggression and managed to break again—the killing shot yet another service return winner that made it 2-2.
Petkovic held the next game to take a 3-2 lead, and the next two games decided this match. At 0-30, Errani was outmaneuvered (it does happen now and then) during a long point that Petkovic ended with a cross-court backhand winner. Errani staved off the first break point, but then Petkovic drilled an inside-in backhand service-return winner that whistled past the Italian and landed good. 4-2, Petkovic.
Then, after manufacturing a hold from 15-40, Petkovic was spared the challenge of having to serve it out when she broke Errani in the final game, just after the one-hour mark. The final shot came, fittingly enough, at the end of yet another rally in which Petkovic took charge, ending it with a snapped cross-court forehand that Errani was unable to tame.
Errani won just 33 percent of the points she served today, and she made 13 unforced errors to go with her typically low winner count (seven). Petkovic made 19 unforced errors, but she also smacked 17 winners and won because she dictated the pace and tone of the rallies.