Sara Errani has Thursday’s shot of the day at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Former World No.4 and 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone reached her first WTA final since 2013 with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Petra Martic.
Playing in her first WTA semifinal in nearly 18 months (2014, Hong Kong), Schiavone put down four aces and won 84% of points behind her first serve against Martic, herself a former World No.42 who one made the second week of Roland Garros back in 2012.
It had been a difficult start to 2016 for Schiavone, who missed out on a 62nd consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearance when she fell in the second round of qualifying at the Australian Open.
“When I chose Rio, I chose it mainly because it was clay,” Schiavone said in her post-match press conference. “I remembered the conditions here being very difficult, so I trained as much as is possible for me to prepare myself on clay to be ready for the heat and the effort.
“Obviously when you come here, you try to prepare as much as you can, but you don’t think ‘I’m going there to win it,’ no, no. It’s a wonderful surprise; it’s been a long time since I’ve had this big a result, so I’m taking it as it comes.”
Schiavone next plays resurgent American Shelby Rogers. Playing her first WTA main draw since the Coupe Banque Nationale last fall, Rogers ended the excellent adventure of Sorana Cirstea, a former World No.21 who had amassed a 12-1 record heading into the semifinal by reaching back-to-back finals at two Challenger tournaments in Brazil.
“It feels amazing. I’ve had a really great week, played some good matches,” Rogers said in her post-match press conference. “I got a little momentum at the beginning, but this year has been good so far; I’ve already played a lot of matches, so that’s been a big help.
“Winning this many matches in a row and playing very well is definitely a confidence-builder, but I’ve also had to fight through some tough moments in those matches. Those are where I really get confidence from, so hopefully I can carry that into tomorrow and through the rest of the year.”
Rogers won, 6-4, 6-4, and will be playing Schiavone for the first time in what will be her second career WTA final (Schiavone’s 18th).
“Rogers is a player I don’t know very well,” Schiavone said. “But it’s going to be interesting. A final is really a 50-50 chance.”
In doubles, Veronica Cepede Royg and María Irigoyen captured the doubles final with a 6-1, 7-6(5) win over Tara Moore and Conny Perrin. For Paraguay’s Cepede Royg, the Rio Open is her first WTA title of any king, while Irigoyen won her only previous WTA title back in 2014, playing doubles in Rio with Irina-Camelia Begu.
“I want to thank my partner for the amazing week we had here in Rio,” Cepede Royg said after the match. “I’m really happy for winning my first WTA title in Rio.:
“This is such an enchanting place and the city is beautiful,” Irigoyen added. “I love coming here, people are really receptive and it was a special week.”
Every week wtatennis.com brings you 10 Things To Know about the week – who is playing, where and much more. This week the Road To Singapore goes through Doha and Acapulco…
1) Doha is the first Premier 5 tournament of 2016.
The Qatar Total Open is a Premier 5 event and part two of the WTA’s fortnightly tour of the Middle East – part one is the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. There’s nearly $3 million on the line, with the winner pocketing $518,500 and a whopping 900 points for the Road To Singapore leaderboard.
Click here for a full analysis of the Doha draw.
2) World No.2 Angelique Kerber plays her first tournament since winning the Australian Open.
Kerber played a solid weekend in Fed Cup – going 1-1 in her singles matches against Timea Bacsinszky and Belinda Bencic – but the German comes to Doha looking to build on her early season momentum; she remains the only player to reach more than one final in 2016. It won’t be easy for the 2014 finalist with her fellow Top 8 seeds in tow: Simona Halep, Agnieszka Radwanska, Garbiñe Muguruza, Petra Kvitova, Bencic, Lucie Safarova, and Carla Suárez Navarro.
3) Agnieszka Radwanska is also hoping to build on her strong start to the season.
Out since the Australian Open with a left leg injury, the reigning BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global champion was undefeated through the semifinals in Melbourne, having won the title at the Shenzhen Open. Though she fell to World No.1 Serena Williams in her last match, the Pole has otherwise looked good since last year’s US Open, and is poised to rise to World No.3 on Monday.
4) Defending champion Lucie Safarova makes her 2016 debut.
Safarova’s stellar 2015 season started off last year in Doha. The Czech earned back-to-back Top 10 wins and beat former No.1 Victoria Azarenka in the final, parlaying that result into a maiden Grand Slam final at the French Open. A bacterial infection derailed her season after the US Open, and though she qualified for Singapore, Safarova hasn’t played since, but with several weeks of practice in Doha, look for the defending champ to make some noise with her big lefty game.
5) Can Halep, Muguruza or Kvitova kickstart their years in Doha?
No.2 seed Halep has been looking for matches all season, but they were hard to come by in Dubai; the Romanian had to face former No.1 Ana Ivanovic in her opening round match, losing in straight sets. Muguruza has been dealing with a foot injury that has kept her from feeling prepared to play her best tennis, while Kvitova has won just one match all season and has yet to name a replacement coach since splitting the David Kotyza. All three have the talent to win in Doha; can one or more catch fire this week?
6) Azarenka does Acapulco.
While most of the game’s biggest names are duking it out in Doha, Victoria Azarenka has opted to ease into her North American hardcourt swing by playing her first tournament since the Australian Open at this week’s International event at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel. Top seed in Acapulco, Azarenka is joined by tricky opposition in Sloane Stephens, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Dominika Cibulkova.
7) Can Konta go further?
Johanna Konta rocked the tennis world when she made her historic run to the semifinals in Melbourne. A likely seed in Acapulco, how will the Brit back up that result as she aims to continue her march up the rankings; she is currently at a career-high ranking of No.27.
8) How will Sloane Stephens rebound?
Stephens came to Melbourne looking like a dangerous floater having won her second career title at the ASB Classic, but took a surprising first round loss to Wang Qiang. How will the American fare in her first event since then?
9) Welcome back, Galina.
Former World No.42 and No.1 Kazakh Galina Voskoboeva was close to a career-high ranking when multiple foot injuries kept her off the court for nearly two years. Playing her first matches earlier this month at Fed Cup and an ITF Challenger, Voskoboeva makes her WTA return in doubles this week with Anastasia Rodionova. Stay tuned for more insight into Voskoboeva’s comeback on WTA Insider.
10) Find out where you can watch live action this week.
DUBAI, UAE – Sara Errani crowned her return to form with a dominant victory over Barbora Strycova in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Watch live action from Dubai & Rio de Janeiro this week on WTA Live powered by TennisTV!
A former Top 10 fixture and French Open finalist, Errani’s greater big-match experience shone through as she romped to a 6-0, 6-2 victory after little more than an hour on court.
“I have no words. I’m sorry for Barbora – she’s an amazing player, but I’m really happy to win this tournament. It’s been a tough week for me, and I’m really happy for me, my team and my family and friends,” Errani told Annabel Croft in her on-court interview.
The Italian looked in pensive mood when she stepped out on court, but hit the ground running. Perhaps sensing her opponent’s own nerves, Errani won the toss and elected to receive, a decision that was rewarded by a string of unforced errors and a break to love.
With the occasion seemingly getting the better of her opponent, Errani showed no mercy, rattling through the next couple of games in the blink of an eye. When Strycova belatedly found her range, Errani was her equal, showcasing her extraordinary defensive capabilities to prevail in a 26-shot exchange and move 4-0 ahead.
After 29 one-sided minutes, Strycova surrendered the set after a couple more wild swings, and her mood darkened further when she frittered away a 30-0 lead to drop serve in the next game.
Much to the Czech’s relief, she finally got on the scoreboard a few games, punching away a double-fisted volley to end the prospect of a first whitewash in a WTA final since 2014.
But whatever questions Strycova posed, Errani had an answer for, ploughing relentlessly towards the finishing line.
“She can do everything – coming to the net, drop shots – so I just had to be focused every point and be ready for what could happen,” Errani added.
The only wobble for Errani, who coughed up a meager 11 unforced errors, came with the finishing line looming. A face saving last stand from Strycova saw her uncork a couple of rasping drives to save four match points, before finally finding the net to hand Errani the ninth, and biggest, title of her career.
“No, not really! I was trying to sing a bit, not to think too much,” Errani said when quizzed about her calm demeanor down the home stretch. “Of course, it’s tough [to win] those last points. I had match point at 5-1 and then I closed it on maybe the fifth match point. There were a lot of nerves.”
At times, Strycova was the architect of her own downfall, offsetting 15 winners with 43 unforced errors. Nevertheless, she heads off to Doha for next week’s Qatar Total Open, back inside the Top 40 and with wins over a couple of in-form rivals – Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Garcia – under her belt.
“For sure, well done to Sara,” Strycova said. “I’m sorry for keeping it so short. I tried everything, but nothing was working.
“It was a great week and I’m happy to make the final.”
In the doubles final, Chuang Chia-Jung and Darija Jurak upset No.2 seeds Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4, 6-4.