While most players might consider a string of lengthy matches as a sign something has gone wrong, Sara Sorribes Tormo has a different perspective.
Heading into the Miami Open, the 24-year-old Spaniard led the tour in matches that have lasted longer than two hours this season, with nine of her 15 encounters reaching that benchmark.
Her two matches in Miami so far have also been marathons. Sorribes Tormo saved match points to defeat Bernarda Pera 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 in the first round in 2 hours and 41 minutes. The win was her second match-point saving win of the season. She then bounced back to stun Australian Open finalist Jennifer Brady 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in 2 hours and 22 minutes.
"I'm proud of working all the match," Sorribes Tormo said after her win over Brady. "Don't stop fighting. I stay there no matter what, no matter the score.
"I think today was one of the best matches I played. I'm 100% sure."
Sorribes Tormo's growing reputation as an iron-willed competitor (she is the only player to win two matches from match-point down this season) has paid dividends over the past six months. Last fall, she qualified in Ostrava and proceeded to make her first WTA 500 quarterfinal, losing to eventual champion Aryna Sabalenka. She then started 2021 with yet another quarterfinal run, this time in Abu Dhabi.
Sorribes Tormo's big win came at the Abierto Zapopan in Guadalajara, where she defeated Eugenie Bouchard to capture her first title. It was an emotional moment for Sorribes Tormo, who was able to share the moment with her tennis-teaching mother, who had flown to be with her during the tour's swing through Mexico.
Currently ranked at No.58 and on the verge of a new career-high, Sorribes Tormo spoke to WTA Insider earlier this month to discuss her resilience and evolution into a player no one wants to face.
WTA Insider: Your results have been strong so far in 2021. Did you do anything different during your pre-season?
Sorribes Tormo: It was a big difference because this year I was practicing in Valencia and in other years I was practicing in Barcelona. Also, my team changed last year right before the pandemic. It was the main difference for me.
I came back home, I stayed with my family, and I started the pre-season after Linz because we were supposed to come to Australia earlier. There was not a lot of time for holidays, so I decided to start right after the season. Really good weeks for me. I think I did about six or seven weeks.
I was doing a lot of fitness. I was trying to improve in my conditioning because I think for my game it's very important. I know I'm not a big server or have really big shots. I have to run a lot. I'm really Spanish in that way (laughs).
I have to run a lot and be ready to play many matches. That was what I was working for at the beginning of the pre-season.
WTA Insider: Were there things you were able to work on that you wouldn't have been able to during a regular, shorter pre-season?
Sorribes Tormo: Yes, there's always a good part of having more time. You can take it slowly and with calm and improve many things that during the season it's more difficult because you are playing every week. It's hard to adapt to a lot of things.
I was working a lot on my serve. I think it's one of the parts that I have to work more. And I was trying to be more aggressive. I think the tennis is going that way and I have to go that way as well. I know I'm -- I'll say it again, I'm very Spanish in that way -- but I have to improve. I have to be more aggressive, I have to arrive more to the net. I was trying to be better in this.
WTA Insider: How difficult is it for you to make those adjustments to be more aggressive in your game?
Sorribes Tormo: It is difficult. I think everything starts with the mind. Of course you need to have the shots, you have to arrive better to the ball, you have to see the place where you want to put the ball. Like everything it is a process. You have to start slow because it's not something you are going to change in one day. It takes time. But you know you have to go this way and everything needs to improve.
I'm a player and a person who thinks I have many things to improve in every place in my life. I am trying to take things slow and take everything like I know I have to do it and take it step-by-step, not change everything in one day because this is impossible. You have to go slow, you have to take it with calm and try to improve every day.
But of course, when you have one type of game it's difficult to change it but you need to grow and you need to improve. This is the way to do it.
WTA Insider: For you, what does it mean to be more aggressive?
Sorribes Tormo: Of course I will not hit the ball like Petra [Kvitova]. Never. This is impossible.
But if you know this then you have to accept it and do the things to arrive at the same point. We all want to hit winners. So let's see how we arrive there. I feel good with the volley. So maybe for me, it is to arrive more to the volley, close the point there at the net.
Of course, court positioning is very, very important. If you take the ball earlier, if you take the ball high, if you take the ball more inside of the court you will take the time away from the other player.
And also of course, if you try to go to the net your ball will go faster and your body will go after the ball and you will arrive to the net. So I think it's a mix of everything.
For me, it's important to know and accept which kind of player I am and which shots I have and from there, start growing and play more aggressively and do the things my coach tells me.
WTA Insider: You talked about the hard work you have been putting in during the pre-season and with your coach, but are there smaller adjustments that have made a difference for you this year?
Sorribes Tormo: I think the most important thing and the thing that makes a difference is acceptance. I'm accepting everything that is coming on court.
I'm accepting that I'm winning 3-1 in the second set and then she's winning 5-3 and I'm losing. I'm accepting that yesterday I was winning 3-2 and then she was 5-2 up. I'm just trying to stay there all the match and when I have the option, to get to the net and make my game.
But when I can't, I just accept because probably they are playing better than me. So I accept it and try to stay there and take my opportunity.
WTA Insider: When did you start to realize that was important for you to become a better player?
Sorribes Tormo: Silvia is telling me this every single day. She's telling me many, many times, "Ok, it's not working today but just accept it." They are better than you today, just accept it and your moment will come.
I think that's a good thing because after that you go off of the court and you gave your best and that's it. They are better and they are playing very good. So when you start thinking like this it's a lot easier.
I think I'm a very energetic player and that's what I'm trying to control. Because if not, you go a lot up and down and in tennis you need to be calm and go in one direction, on one line all the time.
That's something I'm trying to improve. Because then when bad moments come, you are more calm and more ready to accept that everything is coming.
Before, I was probably not accepting the same but I also think my level was not the same. If you don't have the weapons to make them miss or to win one point, I know I'm not making many winners, but I'm trying to go more to the net and put more pressure there.
Everyone is different and everyone is trying to play the best that they can. Probably that's the biggest difference.
WTA Insider: How did you first start to play tennis?
Sorribes Tormo: I started in the club in my town because my mom was a tennis teacher. I liked everything about it, but I really liked every sport. I was very active and at one point my mom said ok stop, go play tennis.
WTA Insider: At what point did tennis stop being a hobby and more like something you might be able to do professionally?
Sorribes Tormo: I think that was a process. I started practicing more, I went to an academy in Valencia to practice. That changed a little bit my mind because I am from a small town going just a few days to play tennis, and then changed to this. At that point, when I was 14 or 15, it changed.
But I never had the pressure to be a tennis player. My family never told me that. I was just enjoying tennis and every sport I was doing.
WTA Insider: What do you think you would be doing if you had not chosen tennis?
Sorribes Tormo: I really like sports so probably I would like to be a football player. If not, maybe study communications. Maybe commentary.
WTA Insider: What is the biggest challenge for you as a professional tennis player?
Sorribes Tormo: The most challenging thing is we are many weeks not at home. At the beginning thing that is the most difficult part. You are used to staying with your family, with your loved ones. To stay so many weeks away from them is the most difficult part.
WTA Insider: Did you have any tennis idols?
Sorribes Tormo: David Ferrer.
WTA Insider: I can see that in your game. The same fight and physicality.
Sorribes Tormo: Wow. Maybe one day (laughs).
WTA Insider: Did you and your coach sit down and talk about goals before the season?
Sorribes Tormo: I never put a goal for a ranking or a result. My goal is that when we finish the year we are proud of what we've done. That's the way I understand tennis and the way I understand life. Looking back on the year and thinking ok, we do it the same.
I think the win comes after the work, so we just have a few points that we want to improve, like finishing more points at the net, but not that I will finish Top 40 or Top 30. No. I think it's just the process. It will come after everything you've done.
WTA Insider: What do you do to take your mind off tennis?
Sorribes Tormo: I'm trying to improve on this because, like I said, I love tennis. I can be watching tennis all day, no matter what tournament, ITF, Challengers, I could watch tennis all day. But I think it's not good.
At some point you have to disconnect and take your mind off tennis and do more things because life has many more things. I'm trying to improve a lot in this. I think I'm doing better.
I like to read, I like to stay with my loved ones. Have some good coffee time and enjoy the places where I am.
Photo of the day 📸— Tennis Championship Istanbul (@TennisChampIst) September 8, 2020
Heather Watson retires the game due to her injury. While leaving the court, her opponent Sara Sorribes Tormo helped Watson's bags to carry 😍🥰@wta #fairplay #respect #tennischampistanbul pic.twitter.com/2ksSJVWHdS
WTA Insider: When you stop and think about what your career could, how good you could be, what do you think? Do you think Top 10? Slams? Top 30? What do you think you can do?
Sorribes Tormo: That's something I try to not think about. Since I grew up and became a Top 100 player and then Top 90, Top 80, I always felt I had so much to improve. Maybe I was No.80 but they were playing better than me. So I had to suffer so much to be No.80, to play every single day, every single match.
When you are like this and you feel like you don't have an amazing level, you are just trying to improve. That's what I think. This week and every week I'm trying to improve.
WTA Insider: Are you surprising yourself?
Sorribes Tormo: Yes. I'm surprised. I'm still surprised by so many things.
WTA Insider: Now that you've won a title, do you feel that all the sacrifices and decisions you've made to become a better tennis player has paid off?
Sorribes Tormo: First of all, when you said I won a title, I thought "Oh. I won a title?" (laughs).
I'm a bit obsessed with trying to improve every single day. I was sitting with Marie (Bouzkova) at the end of the final in Guadalajara and I was telling her, "Oh, do you think I was changing too fast to her backhand? Should I have gone more to her forehand?"
Mary was telling me, "Relax and enjoy your win. I'll tell you tomorrow."
I'm trying to improve every day and that's what makes me happy.