Australia’s Sam Stosur has said goodbye to singles tennis in a typical way – it was not easy, but there was no doubt about her commitment and she gave her home crowd plenty to cheer about.
In the end, however, Stosur bowed out at Melbourne Park and ended a two-decade singles career with a hard 6-2, 6-2 loss to Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at the Kia Arena.
The 37-year-old has accumulated devotion and respect for his achievements over the years as one of Australia’s most successful women’s tennis players, but there has also been a degree of frustration over a feeling that opportunities were not being exploited.
Although the Australian Open has not been a happy hunting ground, she chose at least in singles – during this year’s tournament that Stosur only reached the third round of singles in the last decade – Melbourne Park to make her singles buck.
The Brisbane-born Gold Coast native made his professional debut as a 15-year-old in 1999.
She quickly became known for her focus on training and fitness, and a solid game of kick-serve, sliced backhands, power forehands and inside-out shots to the corners to create points.
Her power gave her an advantage – though this would be dulled in recent years as more and more players added power to their game. Sometimes, however, there were questions about the mental side of Stosur’s approach and her lack of consistency in being able to end the fights.
Her undoubted physical condition was tested in 2007 and 2008 when she had to deal with Lyme’s illness, forcing her to miss eight months of tennis.
But she returned to tennis and climbed the rankings, beating the world’s top 10 in 2010.
Her play on clay was particularly impressive – she reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros on four occasions and reached the final in 2010.
Stosur went in as the favorite after finishing Justine Henin’s winning streak of 24 matches in Paris in the round of 16, then won a tough three-set against Serena Williams before sweeping a semi-final against Jelena Jankovic, against whom she lost only three. game.
But after showing what she was capable of in the tournament, and with the top record on clay for the season with 20 wins and two defeats in the final, Stosur regretted Francesca Schiavone’s performance.
The Italian 17th seed dominated the net, and a combination of a few too many unforced errors from Stosur and a series of winners from her opponent allowed Schiavone to win the victory in straight sets.
The loss could have been a true stumbling block for the Australian, but even if she failed to get past the third round in Paris the following year, Stosur would find her mark on flushing Meadows’ hardcourts.
Stosur beats Serena and the US Open audience
The signs were good as she beat second-seeded Vera Zvonareva in the neighborhood and then was taken to three sets by the future world number one, Angelique Kerber in the semifinals.
In the final, she met Williams, who was looking for her fourth US Open title.
Stosur held her nerve, controlled her violent forehands, held serve and put Williams under tremendous pressure. She broke twice in the opening set, and then came the key moment in the first match of the second set.
Stosur had Williams at the break point, but the American produced a forehand for an apparent winner, and let out a shout of “come now”.
But because Stosur managed to get to the ball even though she could not get it back in play, the referee gave her the point, assessing that Williams had verbally prevented the Australian’s ability to complete the point.
The Flushing Meadows crowd matched Williams’ anger over the decision and began to buhge Stosur, but after giving the break back, the Australian stabilized and proved too strong for Williams.
Her victory cemented her place as one of Australia’s best women players.
She is one of only six Australian women to have won a Grand Slam singles title in the Open era since 1968. The group also includes Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Chris O’Neil and Ash Barty.
Stosur wanted to reach a top spot at number four in February 2011, and she maintained a top-10 spot for more than three years, ending in 2013.
At a time when Australian women’s tennis is dominated by the world number one, Ash Barty, it is worth remembering that Stosur was the top-ranked Australian female player in world tennis for almost nine years, between 2008 and 2017.
While some tennis fans and experts may be looking at Stosur’s career and seeing missed opportunities, she has spent more than 20 years on tour, winning nearly $ 20 million ($ 27.6 million) in prize money.
In her international career, Stosur represented Australia in the final of the Fed Cup in 2019 – 16 years after her debut in the tournament – and when she went to the Olympics in Tokyo last year, she became the first player to represent Australia in five Olympic Games in tennis.
There has been good news off the field in recent years, with Stosur becoming a mother in July 2020, when her partner, Liz Astling, gave birth to a baby girl.
Instead of leaving things open last month, Stosur revealed on social media his plans to end his single career at Melbourne Park.
After an epic of two and a half hours in the first round against American Robin Anderson, Stosur could not back up against the 10th-seeded Pavlyuchenkova and lost 6-2, 6-2.
This is not retirement for the Australian, who will continue to play doubles tournaments in 2022.
Stosur and Chinese partner Zhang Shuai showed last year what they could achieve with an unexpected women’s doubles title at the US Open. Stosur also reached the mixed doubles final at last year’s Australian Open with Matt Ebden.
But no matter what lies ahead, Stosur’s record of more than 20 years deserves appreciation, not only for what she has won or the way she has played, but what she has meant to many future Australian women’s tennis players over the years.
“She is an Australian champion, quite simply. She has set the tone for us Australians as tennis players for years,” Ash Barty said before the tournament.
Those in the crowd at the Kia Arena certainly showed Stosur their love and appreciation after her loss to Pavlyuchenkova.