Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai have earned a popular women’s doubles victory at Melbourne Park, beating second seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic to win Australian Open 2019.
Australia’s Stosur and China’s Zhang overcame the defending champions 6-3 6-4 in a tense final, thrilling home fans clamouring to see Stosur win her first Grand Slam title on home soil since 2005.
In her last Australian Open women’s doubles final, all the way back in 2006, Stosur and Lisa Raymond held two match points but could not stop Yan Zi and Zheng Jie from running away with the title.
This made Friday’s victory for the Queenslander all the more sweet.
For Zhang, it was her first Grand Slam title of any kind, and she was joyous in the on-court trophy presentation.
“Amazing tournament for me – today is a dream coming true for me,” she said.
Added Stosur: “Shuai, thank you very much. It’s always a pleasure being on court with you.
“We have a great friendship and I think that really shows when we play. We support each other no matter what. We win the point, we lose the point, win the match, lose the match, doesn’t matter – we’re always there.
Like in their semifinal victory over Barbora Strycova and Marketa Vondrousova – during which they trailed 5-1 before storming back to win 7-5 in the first set – Stosur and Zhang were forced to recover from a slow start.
Stosur had to battle in a lengthy opening game on serve, which went to deuce nine times and lasted well over 10 minutes.
She held, but then she and Zhang fell behind 3-1 as Babos and Mladenovic combined more effectively and instinctively to earn the early advantage.
Zhang came alive in the ensuing games; during a purple patch of form she leaned into her shots and cracked some devastating winners from the back of the court.
A 1-3 deficit soon became a 4-3 lead, and when Stosur crushed an overhead winner to bring up break point in the next game, Mladenovic responded by double-faulting, handing the Aussie-Chinese duo another break.
With Stosur serving for the set, a tense game unfolded. She double faulted twice, faced two break points, saved them both, earned a set point, double faulted again – but eventually converted a second set point.
They had won five straight games, and although Babos and Mladenovic came at them hard in the second set, Stosur and Zhang did not wilt.
They saved a break point in the sixth game – one of 11 they faced throughout the match – yet held for 3-3.
In the next game, a heavy Stosur return followed by both she and Zhang charging the net forced an error from Mladenovic. And when Zhang landed a volley on the line for a winner on the next point, they had earned another crucial break.
Two games later, Stosur stepped up to the line to serve for the title. She and Zhang fell behind 0-30, faced a break point at 30-40, and Stosur double-faulted on their first match point.
Yet in an increasingly tense atmosphere at Rod Laver Arena, the Aussie remained calm on their second match point, outlasting Babos in a baseline rally to seal victory.
The victory was a measure of revenge for Stosur and Zhang, who fell to the Hungarian-French team in last year’s US Open semifinals.
They haven’t lost since then, winning the Hong Kong WTA title in October and now the Australian Open crown to built a 10-match winning streak.
Source: Matthew Trollope