A little-known member of the tennis rank-and-file 12 months ago, Errani burst onto the scene in 2012 by reaching the Roland Garros final, US Open semis and Australian Open quarters, results which, combined with her four titles, catapulted her to world No.6.
Strengths: Despite being just 164cm tall, Errani packs a punch. The Italian is one of the fittest players in the game, counterpunches impressively and is willing to stay out on court all day if it means victory. Her mentality is a huge asset – she refuses to be intimidated by bigger, stronger and more established players. Having changed racquets at the beginning of 2012, Errani now gets more pop on her shots, including her high, deep, heavy forehand.
Weaknesses: With her diminutive build comes limitations. Errani spends many matches against the bigger, stronger players simply hanging on for dear life, retrieving valiantly in the hope they miss. And when they’re on – like Serena was in their recent US Open semifinal – it’s pretty much one-way traffic. The Italian’s second serve, especially, is a liability, spun slow and short into the box and ripe for attacking.
Opportunities: Although primarily a clay-courter, Errani showed in 2012 that she’s perfectly comfortable – even prolific – on hard courts. It bodes well for her Australian Open campaign, where the slightly higher bounce and slower pace of the courts appear tailor made for her game. Last year she came to Melbourne Park as the world No.48, yet her No.6 ranking 12 months on will afford her a high seeding and, theoretically at least, a smoother passage through the draw without having to face a big name early on.
Threats: Pressure was never a factor for the emerging Italian last year, but it will certainly be when she begins her 2013 season, as she will be defending vast amounts of points from the get-go. And for all the credit she deserves for maximising her talents and consistently punching above her weight, the fact remains that she simply doesn’t have enough weapons to trouble the elite. Errani has to hope this group – Serena, Vika, Maria and co. – have an off day against her if she’s going to challenge for the title.
Nicole Pratt, former world No.35 and Tennis Australia’s National Women’s Coach
“She's very creative with her forehand side as she's able to hit with different spins and different angles around the court. I think the most improved area was her backhand; players couldn't get into that side and attack. She played that to spots on the court to then got forehands, which was a very effective tactical play. She's become more confident in transitioning to the net and taking the ball out of the air … It will be interesting to see if she's going to maintain her form after her breakthrough year in 2012.”
Keep checking australianopen.com for more previews of Australian Open 2013 contenders in the month leading up to the tournament.