In celebration of Sam Stosur’s birthday today, we thought we’d go back and take a look at the Australian’s greatest…
In celebration of Sam Stosur’s birthday today, we thought we’d go back and take a look at the Australian’s greatest ever triumph – beating Serena Williams to win the 2011 U.S. Open title.
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Sports Illustrated described the victory as ‘among the most seismic upsets in recent tennis history’, and it’s hard to disagree.
Even though Serena was on the comeback trail after suffering a hepatoma and pulmonary embolism from earlier in the year, causing her ranking to drop outside the top 150, there’s few – if any – tougher tasks in tennis than beating arguably the greatest player to ever pick up a racquet in the final of her home slam.
And yet, Stosur produced the performance of her life, remaining cool, calm and composed on the biggest stage of them all, blitzing the six-time U.S. Open champion in straight sets.
Stosur had unfinished business in Grand Slam finals after the disappointment of her 2010 French Open runner-up finish, where after conquering three consecutive former No. 1s to make the final (Serena, Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic), she was stunned in the final by Francesca Schiavone.
But this time Stosur was the underdog and she relished the position, completing a near-flawless 6-2 6-3 victory over Serena under the lights at Flushing Meadows.
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Stosur only made 12 unforced errors and struck 20 winners in the straight sets dispatch – and her level of play caused Serena to lose her cool, with the American uttering the now infamous ‘you’re a hater and unattractive inside’ line towards umpire Eva Asderaki, who awarded a point (and ultimately a break of serve) to Stosur after judging that Serena yelled “Come On!” on a winner before the point was completed.
But nothing could overshadow the occasion for Stosur, who became the first Australian woman in 31 years to win a Grand Slam and first Aussie woman since Margaret Court in 1973 to claim the U.S. Open.
”I’ve played matches where I feel like I played lights out, can’t miss a ball, and, you know, it’s fantastic. But to do it under these circumstances in this kind of final against a player like Serena – for sure I’m gonna think it’s one of the best days of my career,” Stosur said after the triumph.
”My goal and dream since I started – I’ve said it before – was to win a grand slam. Now to actually do it, it’s unbelievable. Being an Australian with that great history and now to break that drought is obviously very special.”
Stosur’s Grand Slam breakthrough even drew comparisons in some quarters to the comeback made by Andre Agassi, who was forced to rebuild his career on the second-tier ITF circuit after various issues caused his ranking to plummet.
Stosur missed eight months on tour four years before her U.S. Open victory due to Lyme disease – an infectious disease caused by bacteria spread by ticks that rendered her so weak at one point that she couldn’t push a trolley around the supermarket.
Often ridiculed for her struggles at home in Australia throughout her career, winning a Grand Slam title in the fashion she did in New York over Serena will forever live with one of Australia’s most humble athletes.
”I would have liked to have won more titles throughout my career. Been in quite a few finals and wasn’t able to get through that last hurdle … It didn’t matter to me if I hadn’t ever won a title before today. I’ve got this one now, so that makes me proud.”