espnW: Roberta Vinci
Happy birthday, Sara Errani! The Italian tennis star, who has earned nearly $8.5 million in her career, turns 27 today. Introduced to the sport by her fruit-selling father at the age of 5, Errani quickly emerged as an elite talent and was sent by her parents to train in Florida when she was 12. She turned pro in 2002 and won her first tournament in 2005 on the ITF Tour. She claimed her first WTA singles title in 2008, and has since won six more and has appeared in one Grand Slam singles final, losing to Maria Sharapova at the 2012 French Open. Errani has won 21 doubles titles, including four majors with Roberta Vinci. The pair clinched its second straight Australian Open title in January and hoisted its second trophy of 2014 at the Porsche Grand Prix over the weekend. Currently ranked No. 11 in singles and No. 3 in doubles with Vinci, Errani is scheduled to next play at the Mutua Madrid Open, which begins on Saturday.
We’ll be going around the world in 80 days when the 2014 Australian Open begins on Jan. 13 in Melbourne. A year ago, the tournament went by the book when the top seeds took home the trophy in the men’s singles and doubles and women’s singles and doubles. Novak Djokovic won his sixth and most recent Grand Slam title Down Under a year ago by beating Andy Murray. In all, the Serb has won four of his major titles in Melbourne. On the women’s side, top-seeded Victoria Azarenka beat Li Na in the final to claim her second Grand Slam title and her second Australian Open crown. In men’s doubles, top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan became the most decorated doubles team in history when they won their 13th major title. They added two more in 2013 – at the French Open and Wimbledon. In women’s doubles, top-seeded Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci won their lone major of the year. In mixed doubles, the unseeded Australian duo of Jarmila Gajdosova and Matthew Ebden threw in the plot’s lone twist when they claimed the trophy.
To celebrate Columbus Day, we salute some of the great female athletes from Italy. We start with Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, who in 2012 became the first Italian duo to win a Grand Slam doubles title when they won the French Open. The No. 1 team in the world has won two more since. Speaking of winning, Italians swept the individual foil medals at the 2012 London Olympics, with Elisa Di Francisca taking gold, Arianna Errigo taking silver and Valentina Vezzali -- who won gold in Sydney, Athens and Beijing -- winning bronze. The Italians also won gold in team foil. One of Italy’s most popular athletes is swimmer Federica Pellegrini, who holds world records in the 200- and 400-meter freestyle. In 2008 she became the first Italian woman to win a swimming gold, but she returned home without a medal in London. LPGA players Silvia Cavalleri and Giulia Sergas also call Italy home.