Serena sees off Stosur in Miami
Serena Williams slammed 20 aces on her way to a straight-set defeat of Sam Stosur at the Sony Ericsson Open, avenging her loss in the 2011 US Open final.
It was a match that generated the kind of hype that usually surrounds a tournament final. But when Sam Stosur walked on court to play against Serena Williams, everyone who follows tennis – or sport, for that matter – knew what the fuss was about. Because, as the American press liked to put it, it was a chance for Serena to avenge that loss; a rare Grand Slam final loss to someone other than her sister.
“Whenever you go out against someone you’ve just lost to of course you want to win. She wanted to win and I wanted to win,” Stosur said.
“We all know what happened at the US Open but that’s in the past.”
And for once, a match that was hyped to the hilt did not disappoint, with Williams eventually claiming a 7-5 6-3 win after both women stepped up and delivered an impressive display of aggressive, brutal tennis.
It would be fair to say that neither Williams nor Stosur had played their best tennis going into this match. Stosur, in particular, had somehow managed to come through a tough, error-strewn match against South African journeywoman Chanelle Scheepers. But on this day, both enjoyed vastly improved performances.
“The beauty about tennis is that you can get through a match where you are playing a bit scrappy but you manage to get through that then you get another day to try and rectify the situation and try to improve your tennis,” Stosur reflected after the match.
“I thought I did that today and if you look at it from a round by round perspective then I’m happy with the way I improved. I was able to get out there and compete well and play hard and get myself in position where I wasn’t too far from winning that first set.”
Of course, tennis played at this intensity attracts its fair share of mistakes. And on reflection, Stosur will look back on a few crucial points in the first set where a forehand was pulled wide or a backhand shanked long. But this was the Stosur that we all love watching, and at times she was simply peerless.
The Aussie began as she meant to continue: aggressively. Capitalising on a tentative service game from Williams, she pounded her way to an easy break.
But how would her serve perform? Against Scheepers she struggled from time to time with consistency. In her first service game the signs, though, were good with an easy hold.
Williams discovered her serve in the third game of the match. If her opening game had been shaky, the rest were simply outstanding. Ace after ace – a personal best of 20 by the end of the match – rained down on Stosur. Those the world No.5 were able to return frequently left the court open for Williams to dispatch a winner.
But, crucially, Stosur was keeping her nose in front. As the pair fought a tight first set the status quo remained until 4-3, when Williams managed to fashion a break before holding to move ahead 5-4.
Again the pair held until 6-5 before Serena made her move. A huge return game gave her a couple of set points, and she needed only one to take the first set.
It was time to rally and Stosur did that. Just when it looked like the momentum was against her, she capitalised on poor serving from Williams to take the first break – and game – of the second set.
Williams struck back quickly, though, breaking back to eventually level scores at 2-2. In a pivotal fifth game, Stosur pushed the Miami resident hard, on three occasions fashioning break points with some incredible ground strokes. But each time Williams had an answer, going on to hold for 3-2.
“For sure I had my chances being a break up in both sets – even though they were early breaks. It was just a few points in a couple of my service games that I didn’t play very well and she got back even,” Stosur said.
“In that second set she served extremely well. I’ve never had six aces served against me in one game and break points that get saved over and over and over again. I gave myself chances but unfortunately for me she was able to take those away pretty quickly.”
The next game was the one that changed the match. Scores became 4-2 when Stosur surrendered a simple break and Williams – her serve continuing to get bigger – claimed an easy hold for a 5-2 lead.
If the road back was long at this point, it wasn’t impossible. Stosur held for 5-3, then raced to 0-40 on the Serena serve in the next game.
But there was that serve. Two aces and a massive second serve brought Williams back to deuce. And from there you just sensed that she simply refused to lose this one.
Stosur threw everything she could at the American, but in the end another big serve forced the mistake, allowing Williams to seal a hard-fought 7-5 6-3 victory.
“I was looking forward to playing her again,” Stosur revealed.
“It was going to happen at some point in time, it just happened to happen here: a big tournament in the States. I was ready for it, I’m sure she was eager to get out there and try to turn the tables again but that’s all part of it.
“I enjoy situations like that and matches like that where you play a great player and have to go out there and play well.”