Take a bow, Elena Vesnina… Coming through the qualifying draw in Charleston, the 29-year-old is into her first WTA final since 2013 after defeating Sara Errani, 6-4 4-6 6-2. In a thoroughly engaging semi-final, Vesnina produced a sensational third set display, aggressive and precise, and hitting 17 winners to 14 unforced errors. While she admitted in her post-match interview to getting a tad lucky with some of her shots (to Errani’s dismay!), the Russian played an all-round excellent match. She was able to demonstrate her doubles prowess, winning 23 out of 33 net points; she has great technique with her volleys and against Errani, it was a play that worked.
A word though for Errani who played her part in this match. It never ceases to amaze me the lack of respect towards the Italian player… The fact she has managed to achieve so much in her career, essentially without a first serve, is quite remarkable and in my opinion, highlights how effective the rest of her game is. The second set was some of the best tennis i’ve seen from Errani in some time. She was aggressive from the baseline and really held her own against Vesnina’s flat strokes. Errani has such touch with the drop shots and lobs, and holds her ground so well at the net. The serve is consistently criticised but her return, one of her assets, rarely gets the mention it deserves.
In the end, Vesnina was rewarded for her proactive play and deservedly won the match. When she’s on song, her game is dynamite. Vesnina’s mental toughness has come under fire before but she seems to be in a very healthy place right now and her recent marriage in the off-season has been mentioned. Vesnina was as high as number 21 in the rankings back in July of 2013 after she won her biggest title in Eastbourne. After a rough 2015 season that saw her drop out of the world’s top 100, Vesnina is currently thriving in her role as the underdog and with little pressure to defend points. By virtue of her exploits this week, she will be close to cracking the world’s top 50.
And add to that, Vesnina is a lovely person and comes across as so warm and generous in her post-match interviews. It’s great to see her doing so well!
Vesnina advances to her second Charleston final having reached the last two in 2011 when she took on Caroline Wozniacki. This time round, Vesnina will play Sloane Stephens; the American went through after her semi-final opponent, Angelique Kerber was forced to retire at 6-1 3-0. It’s an unlikely final, but should be intriguing nonetheless. One concern will be whether fatigue plays an issue for Vesnina after winning SEVEN matches this week…
QR1, Saturday 2nd April: Vesnina d. Soler-Espinosa, 6-4 6-0 (1h 09)
QR2, Sunday 3rd April: Vesnina d. Sorribes Tormo 6-4 6-4 (1h 36)
R1, Monday 4th April: Vesnina d. Burger, 7-5 6-2 (1h 25)
R2, Wednesday 6th April: Vesnina d. Bencic, 6-1 6-1 (0h 56)
R3, Thursday 7th April: Vesnina d. Dominguez Lino, 6-1 6-3 (1h 19)
QF, Friday 8th April: Vesnina d. Siegemund, 7-5 6-4 (1h 31)
SF, Saturday 9th April: Vesnina d. Errani, 6-4 4-6 6-2 (2h 19)
F, Sunday 10th April: ???
Vesnina beat Stephens in their only previous match in the semi-finals of Hobart in 2013, 6-2 6-2, en route to winning her first singles title. It’s worth noting that when Stephens has won a match at a WTA tournament this year, she’s gone onto the win the title! Furthermore, she’s 3-0 in WTA finals and seems to be finding her best form again with confidence surely high after saving a match point in her quarter-final win over Daria Kasatkina.
If Vesnina can draw on the form she displayed in the third set against Errani, this could be a cracker. It’s going to be a tough ask though against a player of Stephens’s calibre… whatever happens, it’s been a fabulous week for Vesnina!