After a 13 year absence, Aussie Sam Stosur is set to play in her third US Open women’s doubles final on Monday morning.
It’ll be the second time she’s reached a major doubles final alongside partner Shuai Zhang, the pair winning the Australian Open in 2019 over Timea Babos and Kristina Miadenovic.
It’s a return to form for the former world doubles number one, after a lean year on the court in majors.
Stosur and Zhang were eliminated in the first round of the Australian Open to start the year, going down to Aussie pair Storm Sanders and Arina Rodionova. Wimbledon wasn’t much better, Stosur going down in straight sets alongside CoCo Vandeweghe to Anna Kalinskaya and Yulia Putintseva.
After being bundled out in the quarter finals of the Olympics, Stosur reunited with Zhang in Cincinnati, where the pair claimed victory in the lead-up to the US Open.
They’re set to face off against Caty McNally and Coco Gauff on Monday, September 13 at 3am AEST.
The road to the final
The first round saw Stosur and Zhang matched up against young pair Jasmine Paolini and Jil Teichmann.
2021 is the first year the two opponents have paired up for doubles in any WTA event. They found success in Hamburg in July, taking out the whole tournament with a convincing 6-0, 6-4 win.
It wasn’t to be in New York, however. Stosur and Zhang fought off the 6-4 first set challenge to take a comprehensive 6-0 second set and advance forward.
The second round was much of the same, taking down Miyu Kato and Sabrina Santamaria 6-2, 6-4.
Their third round match was the first real scare of the tournament, coming up against experienced pair Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara. The duo have played 93 matches together across the past three years with a 70 per cent win rate.
The Japanese duo kept their errors to a minimum, with just 11 unforced errors throughout the match. However, Stosur and Zhang managed to retain their composure under pressure and won four of their five break points to make the difference when it counted and take out the 7-5, 7-5 victory.
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After they made it to the semi finals of Wimbledon, the next obstacle of Caroline Dolehide and Storm Sanders could have proved to be another scary one. That was a match that went right down to the wire, Dolehide and Sanders going down 7-5 in the final set after a first set tiebreak loss and 6-3 victory in the second.
A dominant service game and 24 winners saw Stosur and Zhang cruise to a 6-2, 6-3 victory to enter the semi finals.
Stosur and Zhang’s strong breaking was on show early, winning the first set over Desirae Krawczyk and Alexa Guarachi 6-2 without much hassle.
Krawczyk and Guarachi hit back with a fine tuned service game in the second set, but it wasn’t enough to fight back after the dismal first and go down 7-5.
Last time she was here
The last time Stosur was in a US Open women’s doubles finals, it was alongside now retired and former world doubles number one Lisa Raymond in 2008. Stosur also won doubles alongside Raymond in 2005, defeating Elena Dementieva and Flavia Pennetta in a three set epic.
Stosur and Raymond were matched against three-time women’s doubles champions Cara Black and Liezel Huber.
The return to the US Open’s biggest stage would be a daunting prospect. Black and Huber were one of the most highly renowned women’s doubles pairings at the time.
It was the fourth time the two pairs had gone head to head in two years. Black and Huber took the spoils at the Australian Open in three sets, while Stosur and Raymond got their revenge twice in a row at the Miami Open finals and then in straight sets in the semi finals of Wimbledon.
The stage was set for what was to be an epic battle.
Unfortunately, the greats stood up when it counted on the day. A 6-3 opening set to Black and Huber set the scene early, before a tense 7-6 second crowned the two as Grand Slam doubles champions for the fourth time.
13 years removed from the loss, and there’s no doubt that it’s a completely different story for Stosur at this US Open.
Now the 37-year-old veteran, she comes up against a team in McNally and Gauff with a combined age of 36. The pair has been building chemistry and results over the past three years, and now have their first chance at a doubles Grand Slam win.
It’s the wizened masters up against the fresh-faced youngsters. After two teenagers did battle for the women’s singles title, the US Open has been a celebration of both the old and new of the tennis world.
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