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.


Anonymous said...

Good win for Stosur! Hope she can keep it up, and not fade into the sunset. Serena, good tournament! out for a year and doing great, all we need know is Kim's return!

svente said...

That'll teach the US Open to not ignore Stosur for 2 weeks! She played an awesome tournament. Oi oi oi! Stossie! Stossie! Stossie!

And thanks to you, Diane, for the tireless coverage.

Eric said...

Thanks Diane!

Nice graphic btw!

Wayne said...

Stosur played a good match. Fast out of the blocks, tactically astute and executed to perfection. I was expecting a big dip at any moment, it never happened. Reminded me of the sustained excellence during her 2010 French Open campaign.

The awards ceremony had a rather 'tacky game-show' feel to it. The home 'runner-up' firmly in the spotlight, and is it necessary to continually bark out the whooping prize-money amount in pounds, shillings and pence ?

Thank you Diane for the excellent coverage throughout the 2011 Open.

Karen said...

Congrats to Sam Stosur. Well deserved winner. Hard worker and she played excellent tennis.

I think after this tournament I am kind of over tennis. I really need to find another sport to spend my energy on. One that does not at every opportunity denigrate women and have double standards for them.

I have been following this sport for almost 15-20 years and I think I am done now.

Diane said...

The only sport I can think of, offhand, that at least appears not to denigrate women, is figure skating. I say that because the male and female competitors seem to be treated with equal respect, and a lot of the men have female coaches.

Basketball, softball and golf are off your list, for sure. In my opinion, they denigrate women more than tennis does.

And then there's the fact that the athletes rarely, if ever, speak out against the sexism. I'm sure many of them are so much a part of the so-called "post-feminist" world that they wouldn't even know what we're talking about.

So I completely understand how you feel, Karen, but good luck with finding a sport that treats women as real athletes.

Diane said...

Thank you svente, Eric and Wayne!

Anon, yes, I'm ready for Kim to come back, too!

bill said...

I'm a huge Serena fan - one of the most precise, crafty, and dominant champions of all time. But when she's having a subpar day at a final (or getting beaten badly, take your pick), these blowups at the officials don't reflect well on her. She's come back amazingly in a year, but even while she was beating Wozniaki I thought her fitness could be an issue in the final and perhaps it was.

And more importantly, hats off to Sam Stosur, who put it all together after a grueling, compelling tournament.

Karen, please don't give up on women's tennis!

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