Brain Game: Serena Vs Errani
Published May 18, 2014 12:13
For the first seven games Sara Errani was right where she needed to be.
It was an unfortunate ending to an excellent week for Errani but she will take confidence on making the final and playing Williams so close before the injury. The last time the pair met, Williams dominated Errani 6-0, 6-1, in the Roland Garros semifinals last year.
Match-ups like this one are a celebration of vastly different game styles that both excel at the top of the game. Williams thrives on power and keeping points short while Errani stands deeper in the court and absorbs her opponent's power, defending and running and ultimately forcing an error with her consistency and dogged determination.
Errani's counterpunching game style stood tall against Williams in the first seven games of the final as she defended well from the back of the court and made the most of opportunities when either player ventured forward to the net.
Errani won 60% (3/5) of her approach points, putting away two emphatic overheads to count for half her winner total. Errani's other two winners came with forehand passing shots when Williams came to the net - one crosscourt and another wrongfooting Williams back behind her down the line.
Williams blasted 11 winners in the opening seven games as she constantly seized early control of the baseline rallies, running Errani side to side and finishing when an opening ultimately appeared. Williams had four forehand winners (three groundstroke and one return), including a crosscourt blast on the first point of the match to make an early statement of who was controlling points from the back of the court.
With Williams serving at 2-0, 15-15, the partisan Italian crowd got a taste of the kind of points Errani was going to have to play to have a chance against Williams. Errani ran side to side all the way to both alleys, defending big groundstrokes from Williams until the American put a backhand in the net chasing a shot down the line. One more ball made all the difference.
Another similar point developed with Errani serving at 0-3, deuce, as the Italian defended a huge forehand return of serve with a slice forehand slow and deep down the middle of the court. Williams sent down three more bruising groundstrokes all standing inside the baseline before she finally miscued on the fourth with a forehand in the net. This was the pain and running that Errani was going to have to endure to have a chance against Williams.
Errani won a critical longer rally serving down 4-1, 30-30, as she turned defense into offense with a big backhand down the line that forced Williams to hit a slice forehand into the net.
Errani broke Williams for the only time with Williams serving at 4-2, ad-out, by hurting Williams in two subtle ways - getting the ball higher out of Williams' strike zone and giving her no power to work with. Errani rolled a forehand high and heavy crosscourt and Williams pulled it down into the net trying to go down the line.
Errani's disappointment with her leg injury should take nothing away from her amazing week, and the confidence built will be critical for another deep run at Roland Garros.
Craig O'Shannessy (@BrainGameTennis) is the leading analyst for wtatennis.com throughout the 2014 season, utilizing SAP Data & Insights to uncover the patterns and percentages that dominate the game. Visit Craig's website at www.braingametennis.com for more expert strategy analysis.