Mercoledì, 19 Settembre 2018
ROME

Tennis: Errani leads Italian charge for Rome glory

English
© ANSA

(By Paul Virgo)
Rome, May 10 - Sara Errani is set to lead Italy's
charge for glory as tennis's top players start to gather in Rome
for next week's Internazionali d'Italia tournament.
The Rome event regularly attracts all the sport's top
names, such as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer,
Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, and this year is no
exception.
It is the second most important clay-court tournament after
the French Open and it is increasingly gaining the status of a
sort of 'fifth' grand slam.
A format change introduced in 2011 means that, instead of
running in consecutive weeks, the men's ATP and women's WTA
events in Rome are staged at the same time, giving the
tournament the same feel as Wimbledon and the Australian, French
and US Opens.
"This tournament is the jewel in the crown, not just of
Italian sport, but of the country as a whole," said Giovanni
Malago', the president of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI),
the governing body of all sport in Italy.
"We are thinking of ways to make it grow even more," he
said, with organizers reporting record sales and the games from
the quarter-finals on already sold-out.
Errani and her partner Roberta Vinci are the world's
top-ranked doubles players after winning three of the last four
grand slam events, and the pair go into the Internazionali
d'Italia as reigning doubles champions.
But the 26-year-old Errani is no slouch in the singles
either.
The Bologna native had a breakthrough season last year when
she reached the final of the French Open.
She has continued her good form this year, reaching three
finals and winning the seventh singles title of her career at
the WTA Tour event in Acapulco, Mexico, in April.
So the world number seven, who is something of a clay
specialist, will be hopeful of giving Italy a home winner in the
singles for the first time since Raffaella Reggi won in 1985.
Vinci, the world number 13, will be out to mount a
challenge in the singles and doubles too.
"It's always an incredible emotion to play in front of your
home fans," said the 30-year-old who, like Errani, makes up for
her lack of height with superb technique, tenacity and
athleticism.
"It's a wonderful tournament for us Italians, although it's
full of pressure too.
"Sometimes the desire to do well blocks you. But last year
(in the doubles) that didn't happen and wining with Sara was
beautiful".
Italian fans will also be cheering on Francesca
Schiavone, who became the first Italian woman to win a singles
grand slam when she triumphed at the 2010 French Open and last
month claimed her first tournament in almost a year in
Marrakech, and Flavia Pennetta, who became the first Italian
woman to enter the singles top 10 in 2009.
America's world number one Serena Willians and Russia's
Sharapova, who won the Rome title in 2011 and 2012, will be the
favourites.
The men's tournament may be more open than in previous
years as four of the three big guns, Nadal, Djokovic and
Federer, have been affected by injury problems recently, while
the other, Britain's Andy Murray, is not his best on clay.
Reigning champion Nadal has won six of the last eight
titles in Rome, with the other two going to Serbia's Djokovic,
in 2008 and 2011.
The top-ranked Italian in the men's singles is Andreas
Seppi, the world number 20.
While other top tournaments have also doubled up for
combined events like the majors, the Internazionali has an edge
in several areas.
These include the sun and allure of Rome and the beauty of
the Foro Italico sports complex used for the 1960 Olympics, with
the tree-covered Monte Mario hill and the Stadio Olimpico acting
as a backdrop.
The tournament also has a superb main stage in the
10,500-seater centre court stadium that was opened in 2010.
The event gives life to a thumping night-life scene too at
Foro Italico restaurants and clubs after the end of evening
play.

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