Monday, March 4, 2019 - Sara Errani plays Heather Watson in the 1st round of qualifying of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 3 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open)
In a sun-soaked day of first round qualifying action at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open, 2013 tournament quarterfinalist and former world No. 5 Sara Errani took on 3-time WTA Tour title winner Heather Watson. It was the Italian Errani who came out on top, moving on to the second round after a thrilling 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-4 victory that took over two and a half hours to complete.
Errani got out to a quick start in the opening set, breaking Watson early and often. Leaning on her 15+ years of tournament experience, she pushed Watson into unforced errors from which she could not recover. Errani looked every bit the part of a former world top-10 player, taking a dominant 6-2 lead into the second frame.
In the second set, Errani once again took an early lead behind the strength of her return game. Throughout the match, she won an impressive (10/14) 72% of her break points. While it looked like it may turn into a repeat of the first set, Watson roared back from the early deficit to force a tiebreaker. Capitalizing on her newfound momentum, she won the tiebreak in convincing manner and took a 7-6(3) advantage to force a third and final set.
The final frame was a back-and-forth affair, with a spot in the second round of qualifying action on the line. After Watson broke Errani in the very first game, the Italian was able to maintain her composure and regain the lead. She closed out the match with a dominant service game, extending her stay in Tennis Paradise for at least one more day.
WTA Tour veteran Errani is no stranger to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. She advanced to the quarterfinals at the 2013 BNP Paribas Open, as well as having a handful of third round appearances to her name. After a rough 2017 season that was plagued by a myriad of off-court struggles, she returned to the desert and won the 2018 Oracle Challenger Series Indian Wells.