Italian women’s tennis has long been categorized by its gritty, battle tested veterans.
Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta have led the Italian women to three Fed Cup titles, have cracked the top 10, and have had success on the big stages. Schiavone became the first Italian woman to win a grand slam singles title with her triumph at Roland Garros in 2010; Pennetta was the first Italian player to break the top 10 in singles and the first to be ranked No. 1 in either singles or doubles, as she held the top spot in the doubles rankings for 18 weeks in total. Pennetta also has a grand slam to her name, as she and Gisela Dulko took home the women’s doubles title at the 2011 Australian Open. Roberta Vinci, winner of six singles and 15 doubles titles on the WTA tour, has long been a veteran presence and broke into the top 20 for the first time in 2011.
With Schiavone leading the pack at 32 years of age, and Pennetta and Vinci both pushing 30, the question is: who’s next?
Arguably on the shortlist for Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2012, Sara Errani has attempted to fill those shoes. The 24-year-old Bologna native reached her first grand slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open, where she defeated Valeria Savinykh, Nadia Petrova, Sorana Cirstea and Zheng Jie before losing to Petra Kvitova. After the Australian Open, her ranking jumped to No. 33, which was at the time, her career best.
We all know what happened next. She bagged three singles titles during the clay season, stunned the world by reaching the finals in both singles and doubles at Roland Garros, and cracked the top 10 in the rankings for the first time. In addition to her success in singles, Errani and Vinci have been tearing up the doubles court this season. After finishing as runners-up at the Australian Open and in Miami, Errani and Vinci have won seven titles this year, including in Madrid, Rome and, of course, at Roland Garros.
The current generation always had Schiavone and Pennetta. Now, the question remained: Who would be Errani’s “and’?
Enter Camila, *ahem*, GOATmila Giorgi.
One year ago, Camila Giorgi was just another name in the draw of 128 at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships. At the time she was just 19 years old and the Macerate native went down unassumingly to eventual quarterfinalist Tsvetana Pironkova, 6-2, 6-1. Prior to Wimbledon, her sister passed away in a car accident and Giorgi struggled to put consistent results together for the rest of 2011.
Giorgi’s father Sergio, who has been her only coach, is well known in Italian tennis circles for being very outspoken about his daughter’s future. Delusional? Perhaps. A little crazy? Just look at the guy. He gave an interview to the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport in 2006, where he told them his daughter will be number one in the world within two to three years. Her career ambitions on her official WTA profile? “To be World No. 1.”
….Okay, so she hasn’t gotten there just yet.
In 2012, Giorgi qualified yet again for Wimbledon and was drawn to meet Pennetta in the opening round. Giorgi defeated her veteran compatriot 6-4, 6-3 and followed that up with a victory over Anna Tatishvili 6-1, 6-3 to reach the third round of a grand slam in only her second main draw appearance. In the third round, Giorgi faced off against No. 20 Nadia Petrova, who came into the Championships in good form, having won a warmup event in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Giorgi, who took the opening set 6-3, rallied from 1-4 down to force a second set tiebreak.
How would you describe your game?
Giorgi: I like to attack!
Peak Pierce? WHO DAT. Second serves? Leave that to the peasants. The girl makes Georges and Gajdosova look like pushers. Like you needed further confirmation of her style?
Her Wimbledon run came to an end against Agnieszka Radwanska in the fourth round, but who’s counting.
humiliating flops poor losses to the likes of Noppawan Lertcheewakarn and Irina Falconi in Carlsbad and Washington, many raised an eyebrow when Giorgi was given a wildcard to Cincinnati this week. Who does she draw in the first round? Francesca Schiavone.
Well played, tennis gods, well played.
While Schiavone may not have had her best day by any margin, serving 10 double faults in eight games, Giorgi’s low-percentage, ballbashing game was on full display on Monday. To use Brad Gilbert’s signature phrase, she took her elder compatriot to the woodshed, 6-1, 6-3.
I kind of need this girl to be in the top 10 for reasons.