Sunday, September 11, 2011
Aussie Aussie Aussie!
Sam Stosur ended her 2011 U.S. Open historic run in style today when she defeated Serena Williams 6-2, 6-3 in the final. Stosur's third round match was the longest women's match in U.S. Open history, and the second set tiebreak in her round of 16 match was the longest tiebreak played by women in any major tournament.
Stosur, seeded 9th at the Open, was the runner-up at the 2010 French Open. After taking out all the top players at that tournament, the Australian was the favorite to win the title, but she was defeated by a stunningly in-form Francesca Schiavone. In today's final, Stosur was clearly not the favorite, yet she won in straight sets.
Whereas world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who lost to Williams in the semifinals, relies too much on her defensive skills, Stosur has sometimes relied to much on her offensive skills and has occasionally appeared lost when her serve has failed her. Today, however, Stosur brought the perfect blend of expert serving and keen defensive play. She forced Williams into long rallies, and she used her backhand slice to change the pace of play.
Stosur got off to a fast start, showing dominance from the very beginning. With her improved backhand and a less hesitant attitude about coming forward, the Australian star looked comfortable taking command of the points, and she used her powerful forehand to keep Williams at bay. Stosur's serving was superb, and she went after Williams' second serve with a ferocity that has eluded Williams' other opponents.
Stosur won the first set in 31 minutes. When Williams served at the beginning of the next set, Stosur broke her, but the break itself was overshadowed by some drama when chair umpire Eva Asdiraki called out Williams on a hindrance violation. On break point, Williams screamed "Come on!" between the time she hit a forehand shot and the time that Stosur's racquet made contact with the ball. The point was given to Stosur, and Williams stopped play in order to express her anger toward Asderaki.
It seemed, though, that Williams had Asderaki confused with another umpire, as she accused her of perpetrating a pattern of negative behavior toward Williams. Given the incident that occurred when Williams played Kim Clijsters at the Open in 2009, the moment contained a considerable amount of tension. Williams was angry, and she threw her anger into the next game, breaking Stosur back.
Serving at 1-2, Stosur went down 15-40, and it looked for all the world as though the "turning point," fueled by Williams' wrath, had arrived. But then Stosur hit an ace, then she threw Williams off balance with a slice backhand. At deuce, Stosur hit a forehand down the line, then passed Williams on the return. Williams got the game back to deuce, but then there was another ace from Stosur, followed by a huge serve. The Australian had held serve when she appeared the most vulnerable, and that indeed, was the match's turning point, though not the one many were expecting. In retrospect, it was the very likely the biggest moment in Stosur's singles career.
Williams was broken again when she served at 2-3. Serving at 3-5, she saved a match point, and then she hit a big serve to save a second match point. But on the third match point, Stosur prevailed. Throughout the match, she hit 20 winners and made only 12 unforced errors.
The last time an Australian woman won the U.S. Open was in 1973, when Margaret Court took the title. The last Australian woman to win any major was Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who won Wimbledon for a second time in 1980.
Stosur's U.S. Open win is a huge one. Not only did she play a record-breaking long match and then a record-breaking tiebreak during her two weeks in New York, but she also decisively beat the tournament's only real favorite in the final. Though Williams was seeded 28th, she was chosen by virtually every expert to win the title.
After Stosur lost the 2010 French Open final to Schiavone, her career went into a slump. Her run at the U.S. Open marks a dramatic reversal of fortune. Formerly the world's number 1 doubles player, Stosur gave up playing doubles, for all practical purposes, to concentrate on her singles career. She is the only player other than Jana Novotna to make a transition from being an elite doubles player to being an elite singles player.