First Ball In, 7/8: Staying Power

Tuesday, July 08, 2014 /by
AP
AP

Three days after Sara Errani completed the career Grand Slam in doubles, she showed staying power in singles.

The energetic Italian rebounded from an opening-round Wimbledon exit with a milestone moment in Bad Gastein. Errani defeated qualifier Katerina Siniakova, 6-3, 6-2, to capture her 400th career singles victory today.

The landmark caps an emotional 72 hours for Errani. On Saturday, Errani and good friend Roberta Vinci defeated Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic  in the Wimbledon doubles final, 6-1, 6-3, becoming only the fifth pair in history to win every Grand Slam doubles championship. The duo opened the season successfully defending their Australian Open doubles title, then reached their third straight Roland Garros doubles final before breaking through at SW19 to regain the world No. 1 doubles ranking.

“Unbelievable. I mean, no words to tell you what it is for us,” Errani said after winning Wimbledon. “We were thinking about that all the day, all the morning. (It) is very special.”

The 5'4 1/2" bundle of intensity has shortened up her service motion, but her desire remains undiminished. Errani, who has 286 career wins and 23 titles in doubles, should crack the combined 700-total victory mark in the coming weeks (she is not playing doubles this week as Vinci is playing in Bucharest). Not bad for a player whose first racquet was nearly as big as she was back in the days when she was still sporting sleeves on court.

Errani and Vinci's partnership has been so productive because they're close friends who approach the tour as a team trek, they are both skilled around net despite playing disparate styles — Errani's heavy topspin displaces opponents, Vinci uses the short slice backhand to dislodge them from the baseline — and both are undersized fighters who exhibit problem-solving skills. Errani has three Top 10 wins this season and has reached finals on both hard court (Paris) and her preferred red clay (Rome).

"Well, it's a different way to find a solution to win matches," Errani said of her approach to facing power players last season.  "I don't have the power that the big girls have, but I try to think a bit more about what is the worse point for the opponent or the best way for me to think more about tactic, is very important for me to know where is the key of the match and try to be on that point."

*****

Grass Run

Tennis marathon man Nicolas Mahut launched his quest for another long run on grass today. Mahut, who fell with partner Michael Llodra in the Wimbledon doubles semifinal, opened defense of his Newport title with a 7-6 (1), 6-4 victory over Facundo Arguello on the International Tennis Hall of Fame lawn.

A year ago, Mahut beat Lleyton Hewitt in the Newport singles final and partnered Edourd Roger-Vasselin to win the rain-delayed doubles final played on a Monday. The Frenchman won two grass-court singles titles and had more grass-court wins (12) than any man last year.

Today, Mahut showed his variety, using both the lob and drop shot to score the only break of the match for 3-2. He withstood a pair of double faults — and a Arguello return that missed the sideline by an sliver — finishing with his 11th ace.
*****

Card Counters

Swedish wild cards Elias Ymer  and Christian Lindell celebrated career arrivals in Bastad today.

The 18-year-old Ymer saved eight of 10 break points in defeating Mikhail Kukushkin, 6-3, 7-5, for his first ATP main draw victory. A year ago, Ymer was ranked outside the Top 1,000 when he won the first set from then world No. 29 Grigor Dimitrov in Bastad before bowing, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4. This year, the Stockholm native has won five Futures titles now ranked No. 310. He earned his first win with a bang, cracking his seventh ace on match point. See it here:

Lindell broke serve seven times in subduing Spanish qualifier Inigo Cervantes, 6-2, 6-3, for his first ATP triumph. The 22-year-old Swede displayed plenty of patience chipping away on clay. He's played 15 events this season — all on clay at the Challenger and Futures level — before this career breakthrough. Watch the world No. 402's match-point moment here:

Three of the four qualifiers in action today — Radu Albot, Renzo Olivo and Albert Ramos — reached the round of 16. The Swedish wild cards will try to back up breakthroughs with tough assignments: Ymer plays No. 5 seed Joao Sousa next, while Lindell will face Pablo Cuevas.

*****

Lawn Reunion

Nearly 22 years to the day after John McEnroe and Michael Stich edged fourth-seeded Americans Jim Grabb and Richey Reneberg, 5-7,7-6, 3-6, 7-6, 19-17, to win a wild Wimbledon doubles final that spanned two days and bounced to two different courts, the pair reunited on grass.

The former Wimbledon champions squared off in an exhibition match to break in the new Stuttgart grass courts. McEnroe prevailed 6-4, 5-7, 10-8. The pair  — who  both lobbied for the Wimbledon doubles final to be decided by a tiebreaker years ago — supported Stuttgart's move to a grass event in 2015.

“The change to grass is a great opportunity for the Mercedes Cup," Stich told ATPWorldTour.com. "I congratulate the tournament on this brave step. Now the grass court season will finally be extended by one week. It is good that the players will have more time to manage the difficult transition from clay to grass."

OOP Analysis

See Wednesday’s Order of Play for Bad Gastein and Bucharest here and for Bastad, Newport and Stockholm here

Bad Gastein

Stefanie Voegele vs. Elina Svitolina: The first meeting between the pair could come down to the 19-year-old Ukrainian's first strike. Svitolina typically plays more assertive baseline tennis than the counter-punching Voegele, who knocked off Julia Goerges in the first round and is bidding to win back-to-back matches for just the second time this season.

Bucharest

(2) Roberta Vinci vs. Alexandra Dulgheru: Their lone prior clay-court meeting went three sets with Vinci prevailing in the 2012 Barcelona semifinals. The 98-ranked Romanian is 74 spots lower than Vinci, but she's won 17 more matches than the world No. 1 doubles player, toiling primarily on the ITF Challenger circuit.

Bastad

(4) Jerzy Janowicz vs. Dusan Lajovic: The volatile Pole's third-round exit at Wimbledon caused his ranking to plummet 26 places to No. 51. Janowicz, who has battled injury issues, has managed just two clay-court wins this season and may well be feeling the pressure after rising to No. 14 last August. Lajovic, who reached the Roland Garros round of 16, has played the best tennis of his career qualifying for his first major at the Australian Open and playing through qualifying to reach main draws at both Indian Wells and Miami.

Stuttgart

Benjamin Becker vs. Benoit Paire: The 33-year-old German looked recharged during grass-court season; the 79th-ranked Paire tries to recover from his bout with the lawn. Becker reached his first ATP final in five years on the grass of s-Hertogenbosch last month, while Paire went winless during grass season. Becker won their lone prior meeting on hard-court in Metz last year, but is 7-24 lifetime on clay. Pained by a knee injury, Paire has lost in the opening round in six of his last seven tournaments and has not won successive matches since the Australian Open.

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