Sara Errani lays psyche bare
NEW YORK -- Rarely are athletes so transparent about their struggles, but Sara Errani's blue eyes confessed to an internal conflict after a 6-3, 6-1 loss to Flavia Pennetta in the second round of the US Open on Thursday.
"I think [it's] the pressure, everything is very difficult for me," Errani said.
As the fifth-ranked player in the world, Errani was given the No. 4 seed at the US Open after Maria Sharapova withdrew and all the remaining seeds were bumped up a spot. With that seed came expectations that Errani would be the dominant player in her quarter of the draw -- and expectations like that had begun to chip at her confidence in the past four weeks.
"I know the situation," Errani said. "I know [what] all the players are expecting from me, and I would like to know how to do [it]."
Tennis is an individual sport, and although a player on a team can distribute the expectations and pressure, Errani has to take it all on herself. This is why it's rare for a tennis player to betray a mental weakness, because future opponents can take note.
The pressure to win, knowing that all her opponents have an expectation that comes with her ranking, had kept Errani from sleeping as the fortnight approached.
Errani said her issues didn't start at the US Open, but they certainly manifested against Pennetta, a fellow Italian.
"I'm not that kind of player that can go there and make ace and winner, and if the ball is going in I'm doing good," Errani said. "[My strength] is to go there and fight. If I feel that I'm not fighting good for too much pressure, for not feeling good with myself doing that thing. Because I don't want to go on the court. I don't want to go to play. I don't want to play. I don't want to stay there on the court. I feel very bad. So that is the problem for me."
It was this time last year that Errani was starting to threaten the top 10, but early this year her results picked up. She won in Acapulco in February and was a finalist at two other tournaments before reaching the semifinal at the French Open, where she lost to Serena Williams. The ups and downs soon started. She lost in the first round at Wimbledon but reached the final in Palermo, where she lost to fellow Italian Roberta Vinci.
In the Italian-language part of her interview, Errani said it was harder for her to play against other Italian women, because she couldn't encourage herself out loud lest her fist pumps seem disrespectful.
"So I hope this can make me stronger, make me ... improve," Errani said. "This is moment, I think, you have to pass from bad moments, to improve your serve, and I hope that I will try and I will find the solution and feel better.
"Is not for winning or losing, [that] is not that my problem," Errani said. "[It] is to feel good on the court."
It would have been difficult to watch her lay her psyche so bare without hoping she finds the peace she is seeking.