29 April 2016

Sara Errani -- tennis champion

Five-times Grand Slam doubles winner reached No 5 in singles

Photo of Sara Errani
Sara Errani is arguably Italy's most
successful tennis player
Tennis star Sara Errani, who was born in Bologna on this day in 1987, celebrates her 29th birthday as arguably the most successful Italian tennis player of all time.

She and partner Roberta Vinci's career record of five Grand Slam doubles titles is unparalleled.  No other Italian combination has won more than one Grand Slam title and no Italian singles player has won more than two.

Nicola Pietrangeli, who was ranked the No 3 men's singles player at his peak, won the French Open championship in 1959 and 1960 and was runner-up in Paris on two other occasions, as well as winning the men's doubles at the French in 1959, with fellow Italian Orlando Sirola.

But Errani and Vinci have won on all surfaces, achieving a career Grand Slam in 2014 when they triumphed in the women's doubles at Wimbledon, having already won the French and US titles in 2012 and the Australian in both 2013 and 2014.  They are only the fifth pairing in tennis history to complete a career Grand Slam.

Errani also achieved a world ranking of No 5 in singles in 2013, having been runner-up to Maria Sharapova in the 2012 French Open as well as winning five WTA singles titles in the space of 12 months.

Among Italian women players, only Francesca Schiavone has achieved a higher singles ranking, reaching No 4 after winning the 2010 French Open.

Errani and Vinci, who also won five WTA doubles titles, have since ended their partnership, Errani deciding to focus on singles, having dropped out of the top 10 in 2014.  In February this year she won her ninth career singles title, defeating the Czech player Barbora Strycova 6-0, 6-2 in the final of the Dubai Championships.

Photo of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci
Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci won five Grand Slam titles
As a young girl, Errani showed talent in several sports, including swimming, football and athletics. But after she was picked to represent Italy in a tennis tournament in France at the age of just 12, her parents, fruit and vegetable trader Giorgio and pharmacist Fulvia, found the money to send her to the renowned Nick Bolletieri Academy in Florida.

She was the youngest ever to stay at the facility without her parents and, unable to speak any English, admitted she was so lonely she cried every day.  Yet, knowing the sacrifice her family had made, she stayed for 10 months.

On returning to Italy, she showed the benefit of Bolletieri's tuition and was Italy's No 1 at 18 years and under before she turned 16. Yet her talent was undervalued at home and it was only after moving to Spain that she was given the support necessary to fulfil her potential.

She won her first WTA tournament in Palermo in July 2008, picking up a second two weeks later in Slovenia, after which she pointedly dedicated her success to "all the Italians who never believed in me as a tennis player and said I would never go anywhere."

Though born in Bologna, Errani grew up in Massa Lombarda, in the province of Ravenna, where she still lives.

Travel tip:

Bologna has a reputation as the gastronomic capital of Italy, the city that invented tortellini and mortadella and gave the world the meat sauce (rag├╣) known as bolognese, which is authentically served with tagliatelle rather than spaghetti.  The best shops to buy fresh food in Bologna can be found in the Quadrilatero, an area adjoining Piazza Maggiore, bordered to the north by Via Francesco Rizzoli, to the south by Via Luigi Carlo Farini and to the east by Via Castiglione. It has a market that has occupied the same location since Medieval times.

Bologna hotels from Expedia.co.uk

Photo of Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna
The interior of the Basilica di San
Vitale is notable for beautiful mosaics
Travel tip:

No visit to Ravenna would be complete without taking in the stunning art of the octagonal Basilica di San Vitale, which dates back to the sixth century and contains some of the finest examples of Byzantine mosaics in the world, particularly those decorating the ceilings of the choir and apse. There are more mosaics in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, across the courtyard from the Basilica.

More reading:

How Roberta Vinci reached a US Open singles final

Francesca Schiavone - the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam tournament

The rise to number one of Camila Giorgi

Also on this day:

1675: The birth of painter Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini

1945: Brazilian troops liberate town of Fornovo di Taro


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