PALERMO, Italy - Former champion Sara Errani is back into the quarterfinals at the Palermo Ladies Open for the eighth time after taking down the big-serving Kristyna Pliskova in a thrilling comeback.
After starting the match losing 13 points in a row, Errani showed her grit to turn around a set deficit to dispatch Pliskova 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Errani’s win extends her long history clay-court dominance, recording her tour-leading 180th career win on clay - more than any other active player.
Read more: Ferro ousts Alexandrova in Palermo upset
“I’m not worrying about the ranking, I’m not thinking like that,” Errani told press via video chat. “I know that these are the last years of my career, so I’m just trying to enjoy every match and try to be relaxed to play my best. To be on the court, free of too many fears, like I’ve had the last two years… now I just try to enjoy every match.
“I want to try to of course give my best and reach my best level, but I’m not thinking too much [ahead].”
The 2008 and 2012 Palermo champion looked to be in trouble early on as she was overwhelmed by the lefty Pliskova’s firepower. Errani quickly went down a double break to love, 3-0, struggling to get into rallies as the Czech targeted her second serve with booming returns.
Errani saved five set points across three games as she fought to extend her stay in the set, breaking Pliskova’s serve twice in the process to make it 5-3. But the lefty eventually closed out the set with another break to the Errani serve, 6-3.
The Italian came out of the gates swinging in the second set, opening with a break to take a 1-0 lead. Errani improved her first serve percentage from 61% in the first to 90%, and didn’t face a break point as she kept her lead under Pliskova’s pressure, 6-4.
Showing flashes of her vintage form, the former Roland Garros finalist traded breaks with Pliskova to start the decider. She kept the Czech on her toes with her signature variety of slices and dropshots, earning a crucial second break at 3-2. Errani had to fight off two break-back points to maintain her lead, and had to weather a short rain delay before closing out the match with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
“During the break, I’ve been at home, I don’t know, maybe two months without going out,” the Italian recalled. “I was training physically and doing fitness at home, but I have a small home so I couldn’t play tennis for a long time.
“When they started opening the courts, I started to practice again. I didn’t stop a lot, I was trying to do something every day. But of course, it’s different playing tennis then being at home doing exercises.”
Former World No.5 Errani, a wildcard in this year’s tournament after seeing her ranking drop to No.169, will take on Fiona Ferro in the last eight. Ferro upset No.8 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, 7-5, 6-2 earlier in the day to advance and record her second-career Top 30 win.