Sara Errani almost didn’t come to Dubai this week as she wasn’t feeling good about her game and felt like she needed a break.
She and her coach decided last-minute to come and compete anyway and she ended up winning the title, becoming the first-ever Italian champion at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday.
Errani not only won the title, she did by producing the most lopsided final result in the history of the women’s event in Dubai as she crushed Barbora Strycova, dropping just two games to lift the trophy.
The 28-year-old was in tears as she ran to hug her coach Pablo Lozano after capturing her first-ever Premier-level trophy – she was 0-4 in finals at that level entering the contest – with a 6-0, 6-2 victory in 66 minutes.
“It’s an unexpected title for me. It was a tough moment, tough year. So my coach is near me, so he helped me a lot. And he know how much we suffer,” an emotional Errani said after her match.
“So to win here is amazing. I mean, it’s such a good tournament. I come in here, we was thinking maybe to not come here, just stay home and recover and try to make it (my game) good.
“But we came here, and every day was really tough. Every match, from the beginning, from the 5-1 down in first round against Zheng (Saisai), and even in the quarter-final with (Madison) Brengle, a lot of tough moments. But of course if we won a tournament, you have to pass a lot of also bad moments.”
The former Roland Garros runner-up took her first title since Rio last year, and ninth overall, in brutal fashion, although she needed five match points to seal the deal.
The 22nd-ranked Errani extended her record lead against Strycova to a dominating 5-1 and her victory made her the second-lowest ranked champion in the history of the Dubai event, behind Venus Williams who was No44 when she won in 2014.
The combined ranking of the two finalists is 69, making it just the third time since 2001 (when the tournament began) the singles final in Dubai is contested by playing with a combined ranking of more than 60.
A clearly nervous Strycova went down 0-40 in her opening service game and double-faulted to get broken and Errani quickly went up 2-0. The Czech faced break points again in game three and sent a volley wide to go down a double-break.
Strycova netted an overhead to face a break point in game five and Errani showed no mercy, going up 5-0 in 21 minutes.
The world No47 got her first break point of the match in the sixth game as she tried hard to get on the board but there was no avoiding a bagel as she sent a forehand wide to surrender the set in 28 minutes.
Strycova hit 21 unforced errors against just six winners in that opening set.
Things didn’t get any better for Strycova in the second set as she sent an easy ball long to get broken in the first game. Before she served in the third game the crowd erupted as they urged her to hold and win a game which left Strycova laughing at the situation she was in.
The cheering worked as she finally held serve, albeit nine games into the contest.
But Errani remained unshakeable and extended her advantage to 6-0, 4-1.
Serving to stay in the match, Strycova saved a championship point before getting a game point with a sensational 18-shot rally that saw her outfox Errani at the net and seal the exchange with a backhand smash. The Czech capitalised on the opportunity and held to stay alive in the contest and make it 0-6, 2-5.
She saved three more match points in the next game but Errani took the title on her fifth chance as Strycova dumped the ball into the net.
The Italian WTA players have produced some impressive results of late with Flavia Pennetta beating her compatriot Roberta Vinci to win the US Open last September, Vinci making her top-10 debut this week thanks to her title in St. Petersburg last week, and now Errani finding her game on the hard courts of the Aviation Club.
Asked if she had an explanation for this Italian renaissance, Errani said: “I don’t know. We are four, (Francesca) Schiavone, Flavia, Robbie, and me, that maybe we help each other to take more and try more things and be confident to can do more things. We had unbelievable result, all four, and we help each other. I don’t really know what happens.”
On her part, Strycova can at least be pleased at the fact that she is having a positive 2016 so far having made the fourth round in Australia, beating Garbine Muguruza along the way, before reaching the Dubai final.
The Czech was disappointed nonetheless by her performance in the final.
Asked what went wrong for her on Saturday, she said: “Everything. I mean, this is one of the days where you try everything and then nothing is working. The funny thing is that I went on court and I didn’t feel really nervous about the match or something different.
“But I tried everything and I couldn’t put one ball in. I don’t know why, what happened, but it’s just sometimes how it is in tennis.”
Strycova had moments last year where she felt she wasn’t enjoying the sport and she admits this week has reignited her passion for tennis.
“I took so many things from this week. I mean, that I can believe in myself and in my game even if it’s not such – if I’m not playing fast or I’m playing like tricky game, that I can beat anybody,” said the 29-year-old Strycova.
“To believe that you can do it, it’s a good feeling. I beat Ana (Ivanovic), which I never beat before. This gave me so much confidence.
“I also took from this week that I enjoy tennis again. It’s nice to play the sport.”