Despite her current WTA Tour ranking of … No. 284 (!!) and a doubles ranking of No. 297, former world No. 5 Sara Errani still received wild cards in both singles and doubles at the big joint ATP/WTA event in Rome this week.
The singles … didn’t go so well on Monday.
Errani, 32, was blown off the court by an inconsistent but powerful Viktoria Kuzmova. The 6-1, 6-0 loss took 55 minutes.
Kuzmova broke Errani seven times, in seven opportunities. The only game Errani won was when she broke the 21-year-old Slovak’s serve in the first set.
Was there a silver lining? Well, yes.
Errani, who has been struggling mightily with the yips on her serve, limited the damage to six double faults. (Actually, Kuzmova also had six. But she also had 10 aces).
And she didn’t serve underhand.
All of those came in the first set. Errani also had an ace. But she won just three of the 10 second-serve points she played when she didn’t double fault, and she served at just a 46 per cent clip.
A chance of tactics in the second set, as the Italian somehow managed to put up a first-serve rate of 90 per cent. She hit just two second serves in the entire set.
There were a lot of caught tosses. But the progress, compared to some of her matches earlier this spring, was that she was at least able to get the ball in the service box.
The minus? When she did, Kuzmova crushed it more often than not.
Yes to Errani, no to Schiavone
We were struck by the Italian federation’s generosity in handing those gifts to Errani.
Especially within the context of the tournament denying a wild card to Francesca Schiavone, who wanted to say Arrivederci, Roma to her home country with a finale there in 2017.
The tournament director gave the usual reasons – going younger, she’d had her share. Errani, who it was later determined was already about to battle a positive doping test, received one.
Roberta Vinci also got her Rome finale, a year ago.
In retrospect, that decision seems even more heartless and arbitraty – even if Schiavone didn’t end up retiring until July 2018, and did get that final chance in Rome.
Errani’s next moves
It’s hard to see where Errani can go from here, other than back to basics.
She is more than 30 spots out of the qualifying at the French Open, even with an entry ranking of No. 229.
And the second week of Roland Garros last year, she played a smaller event in Bol, Croatia in which she reached the semifinals.
If the 57 points from that event fall off uncontested, she’ll find herself outside the top 350.
That tournament in Bol was the last one Errani played before she found out last summer that she had to serve additional time on her drug suspension. Her appeal had been denied. She gave Poland’s Magda Linette a walkover in that semifinal.
Two years of drama
The Italian continued to play between February and the August hearing. The decision came down on Aug. 3. The independent tribunal found she bore “no significant fault or negligence), and imposed a suspension of two months, until October. But it also disqualified the results she had obtained while continuing to play – from February until a doping test, which was negative, at that tournament in Bol in June.
Errani played all the way through to the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. in early August.
It was a long process. Her national anti-doping organization appealed the length of the suspension and the disqualification of results. Errani, individually, appealed only the disqualification of results.
The appeals hearing took place in Nov. 2017. But the outcome was only announced in June 2018.
In the meantime, Errani had returned in Sept. 2017 ranked No. 280. But she battled all the way to No. 75 by the 2018 French Open.
The process definitely didn’t work in her favor.
Another comeback necessary
Instead of winning or, or maintaining the same sanction, the Court of Arbitration for Sport found that Errani “had demonstrated (but only just) the source of the letrozole found in her sample and that her fault lay in the upper end of the ‘light’ range.”
So the CAS cancelled that two-month suspension, and turned it into 10 months. Errani was only eligible to return in this past February. A few months later, she’s lost all of the gains she had made during her first comeback.
Even if you gave the “tortellini excuse” a bit of a sideeye (points for originality, anyway), it’s still a pretty rough sequence of events for a player to have to endure.
Of course, she didn’t have to appeal it. In the end, she would have been better off not to do it.
But if we can find a bright side, every result Errani can put up for the rest of the 2019 season, all the way through Feb, 2020, will be an add.
The question is two-fold: where is she going to do it? And how can she make up ground if she’s struggling so much on serve?