x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Dubai Tennis Championships: Roberta Vinci thrives in extra time

Samantha Stosur becomes Roberta Vinci's second top-10 scalp of the week in Dubai and the Italian now meets doubles partner Sara Errani in the semis.

Italian Roberta Vinci defeated Australia’s Samantha Stosur in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships yesterday.
Italian Roberta Vinci defeated Australia’s Samantha Stosur in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships yesterday.

On Wednesday night, Roberta Vinci was sitting in her room switching television channels with the remote control in her hand, desperate to watch the Champions League clash between AC Milan and Barcelona. In the end, she just gave up.

"It was not there on TV, but I saw the newspapers and Milan won," said the Italian, who loves football and, according the WTA, is pretty good herself with a ball at her feet.

"I like to play," she said yesterday, after knocking Samantha Stosur, the seventh seed, out of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with a convincing 6-2, 6-4 win. "I like also the Serie A in Italy, and, yeah, I like football. Yes."

The love of football, however, does not come even close to Vinci's passion for tennis.

She got hooked on to the game as a five year old, when she accompanied her accountant father, Angelo, to the local club, where he played tennis in his spare time.

"I have never had a passion for anything but tennis," she said. "I have lived and breathed it and I always will.

"I see myself teaching it after I stop - teaching children how to hold the racket, changing their grip, helping them develop their talent."

For the moment, though, she is enjoying probably the best phase of her career. Vinci is the reigning world No 1 in doubles, having won three of the last four Grand Slam crowns with her good friend Sara Errani.

Vinci, who has played on the WTA Tour since 1998, has also risen up the singles rankings in the last 12 months, moving from No 53 in January, 2012, to a career high of No 15 last September. At the moment, she is No 17 and has won four of her six WTA titles over the past two seasons.

Vinci puts her recent success down to experience. She turned 30 on Monday, celebrating the occasion with a cake from the WTA and, "I came into my room, and I saw there was a cake also from my mother and my father. So nice."

Experience has helped her deal with her physical shortcomings on the court - she is 5ft 4ins (1.62m) - and the doubles has helped her sharpen her skills and gain confidence.

"I have a lot of matches behind me, so for sure the experience helps me," Vinci said.

"I am not tall, but I think I am a have good touch. I play some slice, go to the net. Probably the doubles helps the single. With Sara, we won a lot of tournaments. We are [high] in confidence."

That confidence has seen Vinci beat two top 10 players in Dubai - the No 6 Angelique Kerber in the second round and then the No 9 Stosur for her first singles semi-final of the year.

Next up, however, is a familiar face: her doubles partner and the world No 7 Errani.

Looking at her current form, though, Vinci might have another top 10 scalp against her name today. And there is plenty of determination as well, knowing she does not have many years ahead.

"I'm not young … I'm 30," she said. "I have a few years more to play tennis and I hope to play like this."

Errani and Vinci conceded it will be mentally tough to face each other across the net when the doubles partners meet in the semi-finals.

The top-ranked pair on the WTA Tour, Errani and Vinci have won three of the last four grand slams doubles, including the 2012 US Open, where they also met in the quarter-finals of the singles competition.

Errani, who lost to Maria Sharapova in the 2012 French Open final, won that contest at Flushing Meadows 6-2, 6-4, but she will not be very upset if that result is reversed here.

“The good thing is that one Italian will be in the final, so this is a good thing,” said Errani, the world No 7. “But for sure it’s tough to play against one very good friend.

“We know each other very well. We stay maybe together in the year, I don’t know, 300 days in a year. We have many moments, many good moments together.

“So for that it will be tough. Normally she’s with me on my side of the net and not on the other one, so to see her on the other side is tough because one of us will lose.

“It’s tough when you lose. You’re upset when you lose, but for sure I’ll be happy that she won if it happens.”

Errani is the third consecutive top-10 player Vinci will have faced this week. She defeated the No 6 Kerber and the No 9 Stosur, but the 30 year old considers the upcoming match the most difficult mentally.

“Playing Sara is a little bit different mentally because I know her,” Vinci said. “She’s like a sister for me and we play every time together. It will be tough.”


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