RABAT, Morocco - Unseeded Sara Errani has made her first WTA semifinal in over 12 months with a tight 7-6(5), 6-4 win over No.3 seed Daria Gavrilova at the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem.
Breaks of serve were a major theme of a match between two of the shorter players on the WTA Tour, both known for their strong return games rather than ace counts. The Italian was broken seven times - including twice when she served for the first set, and again when serving for the match. However, she repaid her Australian opponent eight times, displaying her trademark prowess at the net and with the drop shot.
Gavrilova twice won break points with beautiful drop shot return of serve winners, but her own service woes led to some ill-timed double faults: down set point in the first set tiebreak, and then again to fall behind 3-5 in the second set.
Errani has seen her ranking fall to World No.102, having not made a WTA semifinal since Charleston in April 2016. But the Italian has been resurgent on red clay, and as she probed every corner of the court against Gavrilova she made it clear that the talent that took her to the 2012 Roland Garros final is still there. The Australian displayed grit in nipping at her heels throughout the second set, but Errani managed to close the match out with a fine drop volley.
"I tried to do my best - it was not an easy match, there are no easy matches here," said Errani afterwards. "But I'm happy for my game. I don't know when was my last semifinal, so it's important for me to take confidence."
Elsewhere, the 30-year-old American Varvara Lepchenko made her first WTA semifinal since Stanford in 2015 with an emphatic 6-3, 6-2 victory over her 18-year-old compatriot, CiCi Bellis. In 2012, Lepchenko reached both the fourth round of Roland Garros and the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open, but this marks her debut in the last four of a WTA clay tournament.
Bellis, whose first two rounds both ended in 7-5 final sets, had spent over five hours on court in Rabat before today, and was unable to repeat her heroics of last night in taking out No.2 seed Timea Bacsinszky.