Of all the moments when rain might fall at Wimbledon, Roland Garros finalist Sara Errani experienced a humdinger this evening. The No.10 seed had just earned her first match point over the American qualifier Coco Vandeweghe when a shower forced a suspension at 8.15pm, leaving both players on tenterhooks. On a frankly cold June evening which was the very antithesis of a picture book English summer, it was deemed too gloomy for any resumption even when the rain eased off. Instead the match will resume on Wednesday.
The players might be forgiven for wondering if there is something about this match which the tennis gods just don't like. The match had already been moved late on from the show arena of Court 18 to the altogether less glamorous Court 16, sandwiched squarely between Centre Court and No.1 Court. With the sound of the brass band on the tea lawn competing with applause from both main show courts, the chill of the evening was making itself felt as the match got under way just before 7pm.
At once Errani took control with an early break and then garnered three points for 4-0. But Vandeweghe hauled them back (to the Italian's visible dissatisfaction), and the next game - the longest of the set - was key for the American. She recovered from 30-0 down to gain two separate break points of her own, perhaps finding it easier than Errani to concentrate on the less than peaceful court, having come through the hurly-burly of qualifying. But the 20-year-old let the opportunity slip from her grasp, and when she might have been 2-3 down but back on serve, she was instead 1-4. Errani promptly broke again, chasing down an attempted Vandeweghe pass to seal the point with an excellent lob, and served out the set to love in 31 minutes.
Stardom is new to 25-year-old Errani, and there is no doubt that 2012 has been easily her best year to date. Having finished 2011 ranked 45, she made the Australian quarters, and won three clay court titles before the glory of Roland Garros propelled her to no.10 in the world and the Italian No.1 spot. Moreover she has collected seven doubles titles with her compatriot Roberta Vinci, including the French Open crown and usefully the pre-Wimbledon grass-court tournament at 's-Hertogenbosch. In fact her talents are many - even the Italian footballers about to play their Euro 2012 semi-final would respect her "keepy-uppy" skills, as she holds the WTA record of 208 touches of the ball without it touching the ground.
Her compatriots refer to her as "Saretta" (little Sara) not only for her diminutive stature - she is just 5ft 4in tall - but also their fondness for her appealing personality. Few who saw it will forget the picture of her alone on her chair on Court Philippe Chatrier in the moments after Maria Sharapova's victory, with Errani's blue eyes bright with tears she could not yet shed; nor will they forget her utter charm seconds later, when the stadium announcer mistakenly announced Sharapova as the runner-up and Errani grinned broadly, raising her fists above her head in mock celebration of what could not be.
Back on Court 16, the second set rapidly became unexpectedly entrenched, as the two traded lengthy breaks of serve in the gathering gloom of the evening. It was Errani, punchy and compact, who made the breakthrough by being the first to hold for 4-2. It seemed certain she would not permit Vandeweghe, the US Open junior champion in 2008, a way back. But then came the rain, and both players will know that nothing is set in stone yet.