By Jane Voigt
You can hear it. The pop as a ball ricochets off racquet strings. It’s potent, a flash of anticipation. It’s the sound of modern-day tennis for most players, but not all.
Agnieszka Radwanska’s, Sara Errani’s, and Roberta Vinci’s tennis is almost the polar opposite of current trends.
They compose points, the way an orchestral conductor would lead his musicians through a Mozart Sonata. These three use slice, spin, angles, stab volleys, and off-pace shots to lull opponents to their web and away from aggressive baseline games. The shift from offense to defense from baseliners is noticeable and immediate. Their styles We can, and do, aggravate power players.
Sara Errani, the #10 seed, successfully spun her downtempo strategy around 6-seed Angelique Kerber today, sending the 2011 semifinalist home 76(5) 63.
Errani’s serves against Kerber were so slow at times, Kerber either tried to apply pace or softly returned a shot in order to begin the point. Either way she failed.
Kerber is no Sharapova when it comes to power, but the state of affairs against Errani was untenable for the German. Errani consistently and gently assaulted Kerber, lobbing moon balls and chop-shotting ones so severely they died on court contact.
Commentators call these women ‘giant killers.’ And if you compared their heights they are right.
Errani is five-five and Kerber is five-eight. Compare that to Maria Sharapova at six-two and Venus Williams at six-one. These two are the epitome of Big Babe, Big Bashing Tennis.
Sara Errani’s doubles partner, Roberta Vinci, was up next on Louis Armstrong Stadium. She’s five-four. This is Vinci’s — seeded #20 — initial foray into week two at the Open. She played Radwanska, the #2 seed.
Vinci’s rise in singles comes late in her career, which began in 1999. She is prominent in women’s doubles, though, ranked #4 in the world alongside Errani. These two won Madrid, Rome, and Roland Garros this spring. They are in the women’s doubles draw in Flushing Meadows, as the second seeds, and have advanced to the quarterfinals.
Vinci won the first set in a bit over thirty minutes, 6/1. She stymied Radwanska, approaching the net at optimal times, slapping volleys away before Radwanska had a moment to move. She was out-smarted.
“Both women feature more brains than brawn,” Matt Cronin wrote early today about the Vinci/Radwanska match, on the U. S. Open web site.
Fans’ preferences for wham-jam tennis versus methodical, back-in-the day tennis, vary.
Pete Bodo, senior writer for Tennis.com, wrote this spring, “Agnieszka Radwanska may be the game’s greatest guilty pleasure.”
Radwanska’s ability to take the ball early and move it around, keep opponents on their toes, and create vintage tennis appeals to millions around the globe. People ache for tactically driven tennis, like that of Pete Sampras, Martina Hingis and Martina Navratilova.
This ‘throwback game,’ as Bodo characterized it, is not only a blast to watch, it is deadly.
Before the women’s singles final at Roland Garros this spring, Radwanska was given almost no chance of defeating Serena Williams. Most thought and predicted Serena would crush the slightly built Polish woman — who is the first in history from Poland to win a WTA title (2007), to which she has added nine more and risen to #2 in the world.
Radwanska didn’t win Roland Garros, but she took Serena to three sets and successfully diverted the grand slam champion from her comfort zone. Only in the third set did Serena consciously revert to what she knows best: powerful and precise technique.
Vinci was the underdog today, yet came out on top eliminating the highest seeded woman in the draw to date.
Vinci never allowed Radwanska to ramp-up her style of murderously mysterious tennis although there were hints of it in the second when she came from behind to even the score before Vinci closed it out: 61 64.
For the doubles partners of Errani and Vinci, though, the outcome of their matches puts them in a rather uncomfortable situation. They will face each other in the quarterfinals.
They have five times over their careers. The head-to-head is 3-2, Errani. She has won the last three meetings.
The bonus for tennis fans? Another round of finely crafted tennis, against the backdrop of boom-boom bashing ball.