Stosur prevails in see-saw, wee-hours slugfest
In a captivating, topsy-turvy match – not merely the most dramatic in the women’s draw, but a record-setter, ending later than any previous women’s match at the US Open – Sam Stosur, the 5th seeded Australian, somehow came back from the dead to defeat Elena Dementieva, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (2).
It was a matchup between two of the most athletic players on tour, though both have had routine troubles closing out matches and living up to their potential as Grand Slam winners.
Stosur came out swinging, pounding powerful groundstrokes and striking her penetrating serve. She kept No. 12 Dementieva off guard and unable to take advantage of her own great ballstriking ability and movement around the court.
Hitting the ball as cleanly and confidently as she has at any time since her deeply disappointing loss in the final at the French Open, where she squandered a real opportunity to win a Slam, Stosur grabbed the first set, 6-3, on the strength of 14 winners and conversion of two of three break-point opportunities.
The second set saw a dramatic turnaround: Dementieva picked up her game, while Stosur suddenly began to play passively. For a player with one of the most potent serves in the women’s game, Stosur, incredibly, failed to hold even a single time in the set.
Dementieva, who came into the Open leading the tour for return games won, broke her opponent four consecutive times to storm back into the match and capture the middle set, 6-2.
Starting off the final set, Stosur shockingly lost her serve yet again and went down 3-0. The Australian finally held serve on her sixth try, then broke Dementieva to get back on serve – if that’s what you call it when neither player can manage a hold.
This was a electrifying display of athleticism, will and weakness. Dementieva and Stosur are both incredible physical specimens: it would be hard to find greater muscular definition than Dementieva’s rippling quads and Sam Stosur’s bulging biceps. But each player’s mental toughness has rarely matched her athletic gifts, as Dementieva’s litany of meltdowns and Stosur’s recent buckling at the French Open attest.
The combination of strengths and frailty only heightened the drama.
As the clock turned past 1 a.m., Dementieva broke again to go up 5-3 on an extraordinary exchange. Stosur repeatedly unloaded on inside-out forehands to the backhand corner. Stretched out wide again and again, Dementieva desperately stabbed at balls in a mesmerizing act of retrieving.
The most enthralling – and excruciating – points occurred deep in the third set, when each player faced match points against her. Slugging the ball relentlessly and offensively, each refused to wilt.
As it seemed destined to, the match went to a final tiebreak. Stosur, who looked to be out of the match only moments earlier, audaciously survived four match points and emerged victorious at 1:37 a.m. – later than any women’s match has ever ended at the US Open.
Said Stosur: “It’s good to make history, I guess.”