Sara Errani had her competition out of commission in the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Her ability to play long rallies, dictate the pace and keep her opponent frustrated paid off in a 6-4, 6-4 straight set win over Elina Svitolina on Centre Court Friday.
The semifinal paired up the 22nd ranked Italian going against the young 21st ranked Ukrainian in a second career meeting for the two. Two years ago, Errani toppled the then 18-year-old Svitolina beating her in straight sets at the Paris Masters. Both players had to work hard in their quarterfinal match where it took three sets to knock off Americans Madison Brengle and Coco Vandeweghe.
Svitolina’s comeback was slightly worse than Errani’s as she was run through by Vandeweghe in the second set before coming back for the win. She wouldn’t be able to give any room to the Italian who is dangerous when given the perfect moment to strike ahead.
After holding through the opening pair of games, Errani redirected the pace using her big shots and tough returns to break Svitolina who was already showing signs of struggle with an early double fault. She recovered well breaking the Italian before a hold of serve earned her a 3-2 lead. Despite getting a warning for taking too long on serves, Errani voiced her angers at the umpire and broke through a deuce draw to level back. She took a second straight on another draw that had the young Ukrainian very frustrated with her inability to act well against her opponent’s shots.
Iian Hughes came out to help calm Svitolina down before the eighth where she found a way to level back at four all on the break. Errani got the fifth break of serve as a long rally on game point ended with another backhander that exhausted Svitolina to the point that it was tortured. Errani served for the set where the long rallies got the best of her opponent with a 26 shot rally ending on a ball landing long to end the set in 56 minutes.
Errani landed 81 percent of shots on the first serve but so far her second serve carried it all ultimately mindboggling the head of Svitolina who notched way too many unforced errors. The wind played a factor in her mistakes but she would have to adjust enough to compete.
The adjustments were small during the first couple of games where she fought back against Errani that gained her a 3-1 lead answering well on the rallies and moving smoothly rather than struggling to return. Errani threw Svitolina a curveball in the fifth where instead of playing baseline rallies she drew the play deep near the net winning points on the drop shot that overwhelmed the Ukrainian.
After leveling up in the sixth, Errani regained the lead dictating how she wanted the set to move. During the break Svitolina was on the verge of tears when taking with Hughes during the break. Asking her to get some courage and not let Errani have it her way, Hughes hoped that his player could get back into it by pressuring the Italian.
It was like stopping a freight train for Svitolina who allowed a fourth straight game to Errani that put her in position to play for the match. The young Ukrainian gave it her all on serve unleashing some great moves giving her a 30-0 lead. She broke Errani’s winning streak giving her life in the set to reach for a tie through ten that would extend things.
The Italian had the decision in her hands as she served for the match. She climbed back after countering Svitolina’s attacks by pushing her back behind the baseline before striking big. Errani got match point on a short rally that ended with the ball landing near her feet just long of the court ending the 1 hour and 51 minute battle.
While things looked easy for Errani, the ability to hold off the youngster proved once again that her strategy continues to pay off. It moved her into the finals where she’ll await the winner between France’s Caroline Garcia and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic where the three would become a first time champ at the Dubai tournament.