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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sara Errani

Sara Errani obliterated a skittish Barbora Strycova, 6-0, 6-2, in the Dubai final to capture the first Premier title of her career.

Photo credit: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

There is a time and place for everything.

Today's Dubai final against an unerring Sara Errani was not the time or place for Barbora Strycova.

A precise Errani ran off eight straight games annihilating a skittish Strycova, 6-0, 6-2, in a lopsided Dubai final that lasted just 66 minutes. It was an emphatic finish to a wild week in which all eight seeds failed to win a match for the first time in a Premier-level tournament.

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The 28-year-old Errani captured the first Premier title of her career. Three years after falling to Petra Kvitova in the 2013 Dubai final, the feisty baseliner dropped just one set in five matches to become the first Italian woman to rule Dubai.

"I'm sorry for Barbora; she's an amazing player," Errani told Annabel Croft afterward. "Maybe it was not her day. I'm really happy to win this tournament. I'm really happy for me, my team, my family and friends."

Spinning in 91 percent of her first serves, Errani hit only four second serves in the final and was a calm presence in baseline exchanges. She made 35 fewer unforced errors than Strycova, who struggled to tame her forehand hitting 43 unforced errors.

It has been a revitalizing week in the desert for the former world No. 1 doubles player. Errani arrived in Dubai low on confidence and lower in results. She had just two wins to her credit, but played smart, steady tennis to claim her ninth career title and first since she won Rio nearly a year ago today.

"It's amazing for me to be here," Errani said. "It's a really incredible tournament. It's unbelievable. I'm really happy I won Dubai."

It was a horror show start for Strycova, who was so tightly wound she was muttering to herself and bouncing her Wilson racquet off the court four games into her first final since 2014.

Strycova threw all she had at her opponent. None of it stuck.

"I'm sorry guys to keep it so short. I tried really hard, but nothing was working," Strycova told the crowd. "Thank you for coming out. It was a good week for me I'm very happy I made the final."

A 26-shot rally—the longest exchange of the match—featured a slice backhand duel that ended with Strycova tapping an ill-advised drop shot into the bottom of the net. Errani held firm for 4-0 after a mere 15 minutes of play.

Ratcheting up the torment, Errani hit a forehand dropper that kissed the tape and tumbled over to open the fifth game. Strycova tried serving-and-volleying to mix it up. Her body was veering to the left when Strycova slapped a smash into net. She compounded that miscue punching a stretch forehand into net as Errani scored her third straight break for 5-0.

Showing some feistiness, Strycova saved three set points as Errani served for it. On her fourth set point, Errani watched Strycova wail a wild forehand ending a 27-minute shutout set.

Despite sometimes spinning sub 70 mph first serves into the box, Errani backed her serve up with deep topspin drives. She served 90 percent and lost just five points on her first serve.

Playing a precise counter-punching tennis, Errani gave the skittish Strycova plenty of time and space to hit her way into oblivion.

A bathroom break stalled the rout, but Strycova was powerless to stop her free fall. Her first double fault followed by a floated forehand gave Errani her fourth consecutive break. The forehand failed the Czech throughout the match.

A fine running backhand volley finally snapped the shutout as Strycova raised her racquet and the crowd roared as she held for 1-2. Plopping into her court-side seat she managed a smile and the crowd responded with a sporadic rendition of the wave.

Errani was in no mood for mercy.

Strycova spiraled out of control, spraying shots to drop serve at love for the second time, falling into a 1-4 second-set chasm.

Credit Strycova for trying to employ different tactics and showing a sense of humor amid one of the most humiliating thrashings of her life. Strycova saved a championship point, using a leaping high-backhand volley to work through her second held for 2-5 that pushed the match past the one-hour mark.

The world No. 22 sealed her biggest win on her fifth championship point. Less than a week after Errani's former partner, Roberta Vinci, won her biggest career title in St. Peterburg and will crack the Top 10 for the first time on Monday, Errani had all the right answers in her greatest singles triumph.


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