Tight US Open loss fuels Sam Stosur’s tennis majors belief
Far from crestfallen, Samantha Stosur says her US Open near-miss against world No.1 Victoria Azarenka has only fuelled her belief that she can add to her grand slam tally.
FAR from crestfallen, Samantha Stosur says her US Open near-miss against world No.1 Victoria Azarenka has only fuelled her belief that she can add to her grand slam tally.
In one of the matches of the year, top seed Azarenka ended Stosur’s title defence with a compelling 6-1 4-6 7-6 (7-5) quarter-final victory at Flushing Meadows on Tuesday.
Playing some breathtaking tennis, the two combatants went blow for blow like two heavyweight boxers for almost two-and-a-half pulsating hours before Azarenka landed a one-two knockout punch from 5-5 in the third-set tiebreaker.
“I gave it everything I had,” Stosur said.
That Stosur was able to make a match of it – let alone go so close to winning – after being clubbed off the court early on by an opponent she’d never won a set against in six previous encounters was a feat in itself.
After a season of grand slam and Olympic disappointments, including first-round defeats in Melbourne and the London Games, her spirited title defence was a morale booster the 28-year-old craved.
Even Stosur’s run at Roland Garros came to a tearful conclusion with a semi-final shocker against unfancied Sara Errani.
So often maligned for lacking the mental steel of a major winner, the first question Stosur was greeted with on her arrival in New York last week was whether she was ready to prove her 2011 Open triumph was no fluke.
But under the pressure of defending a grand slam crown for the first time, Stosur stepped up against the world No.1 to deliver arguably her best performance since upstaging Serena Williams in last year’s final.
Even in defeat, it was a performance that had Stosur believing she could land another big one, with her next opportunity coming at the Australian Open in January.
“It’s been a rough year. I came off a pretty rough spot before coming to the US hardcourt season,” Stosur said.
“Going into this tournament, I was struggling a little bit but gaining that momentum and confidence.
“To really turn it around, in one of the biggest tournaments of the year, that’s what we come out here and play for.
“I think that proves to me that I am capable of doing it. Absolutely.”
Twice Stosur could smell a semi-final berth.
The Queenslander fought back from 4-2 and 40-15 down in the third set to conjure a mini match point in the 11th game.
Azarenka saved the break point with her only ace of the match.
Then, after battling back from 4-0 down in the tiebreaker, Stosur found herself serving at 5-5.
Her off-forehand caught the tape and, rather than trickling over for a fortunate winner, the ball sat up for Azarenka to grab match point instead.
On match point, luck again favoured the top seed as her winning shot caught the back of the baseline.
“She played amazing. She made me play my best tennis,” Azarenka said.
The defeat was Stosur’s first in 12 matches in New York since a similarly tough three-set quarter-final loss to eventual champion Kim Clijsters in 2010.
The world No.7′s failure to defend the title will result in a potential rankings dip but, with one final, two semis and five quarter-finals already this season, Stosur remains on track to qualify for the eight-woman season-ending championship for the third consecutive year. – AAP
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