By David Sweet
Sara Errani has transformed her game.Â After years as a journeywoman, sheâ€™s suddenly a Top 10 star.
In a span of three months, she won three smaller clay tournaments at Acapulco, Barcelona, and Budapest, and reached her first Slam final at the French Open.Â Ranked No. 33 at the start of the clay season, Errani won 2,240 ranking points to catapult herself to a career-high No. 10.Â For comparison, Roberta Vinci, with whom she won doubles at the French, currently sits at No. 20 with an annual total of 2,165 points.
When asked about her sudden ascent to the Top 10, Errani replied: â€œI donâ€™t feel like a Top 10, but now I will be so itâ€™s a strange sensation.â€
This begs the questionâ€¦
Is Sara Errani a journeywoman in Top 10 clothes?
Clay court specialists tend to hit their career-high rankings by the end of the French Open.Â Â The first half of the tennis year provides whole seasons devoted to clay in Europe and South America â€“ even including a Slam on clay. Â Â Thatâ€™s a lot of opportunity â€“ seasonal opportunity â€“ to shine.
Think of the â€œKing of Clayâ€ himself Rafael Nadal.Â Thereâ€™s a clay-based seasonality to his success.Â Heâ€™s had many years where he didnâ€™t win one tournament until he hit clay â€“ 2008, 2010, 2011, and this year.Â He got to #1 in both 2008 and 2010, but always after the French Open.
Consider â€“ going into the 2010 clay season, Nadal hadnâ€™t won any tournament whatsoever for 11 months.Â Five months later, he held three Grand Slam trophies.Â Then he won nothing for six months â€“ until he got back on clay.
Now Nadal is hardly a journeyman in Top 10 clothes, but he makes my point.Â Thereâ€™s a clay-based seasonality to his success â€“ and currently one to Erraniâ€™s.
Errani now faces the second half of the tennis year â€“ dominated by faster grass, hard court, and indoor tournaments. Â Sheâ€™s been a journeywoman on these surfaces for years.Â Is she still one now?
Only the future knows whether Erraniâ€™s new found confidence will carry her success onto â€œnot-clayâ€.Â Her first test is at the Unicef Open in the Netherlands this week, where she is the No. 2 seed.
For now Ms. Top 10 Errani â€“ enjoy your new wardrobe.
David Sweet will be covering the WTA event the Bank of the West Tennis Classic at Stanford University for Tennis Panorama News July 9 -15, 2012. Follow his personal twitter accountÂ @davidsweetphoto, and â€˜likeâ€™ his Facebook page â€œDavid Sweet Photography.â€