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Stosur upsets Serena

Aussie captures first major title

Samantha Stosur became the first Aussie woman since 1980 to win a major. Samantha Stosur became the first Aussie woman since 1980 to win a major. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)
By Karen Crouse
The New York Times / September 12, 2011

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NEW YORK - Samantha Stosur endured the longest women’s match in tournament history in one round and the longest tiebreaker in another on her way to the US Open final. When the rain came in the second week, she endured being moved around like a pawn on the National Tennis Center’s chessboard.

All the adversity - the tough opponents and Tropical Storms Irene and Lee - steeled Stosur for the worst storm she would have to weather on her way to her first Grand Slam title: an outburst by Serena Williams.

For the second time in three years, Williams’s menacing behavior toward an official at Arthur Ashe Stadium overshadowed her opponent’s brilliance. In 2009, Williams lashed out at a lineswoman who called her for a foot fault, and lost her semifinal to the unseeded Kim Clijsters when she was given a point penalty on match point.

Yesterday, Stosur defeated Williams, 6-2, 6-3, in a final that will be remembered for Williams’s outburst directed at chair umpire Eva Asderaki in the ninth game, which changed the tenor, if not the thrust, of the match.

Williams, who had served miserably in the first set, putting 35 percent of her first attempts into play on her way to being broken twice, was facing a break point, at 30-40, in her first service game of the second.

Stosur had reeled off 12 consecutive points to secure the first set, so when Williams ripped a forehand to Stosur’s backhand for an apparent winner to stave off another break, she could not contain her glee, screaming, “Come on!’’

But Stosur stuck out her racket and got a piece of the ball, and when she made contact, it brought into play the hindrance rule. That rule cost Marion Bartoli a point under similar circumstances in her second-round match against Christina McHale.

The scoreboard initially flashed 40-40. Asderaki was slow to inform the crowd that the point and game had gone to Stosur because Williams had hindered her opponent’s ability to complete the point.

The confusion whipped the crowd into a frenzy, the boos and catcalls becoming so voracious that Stosur waited to deliver her first serve of the second game until the noise died down. She bounced the ball on her racket while a defiant Williams stood on the baseline with her left hand on her hip.

After Williams won the first point with another stinging forehand, she walked toward Asderaki and, pointing her racket as if it was an extension of her index finger, said something that earned her a code violation from Asderaki. During the changeover two games later, Williams continued to take Asderaki to task.

“Seriously,’’ she said, “you have it out for me and I promise you.’’ She bit her tongue but then unloosed it to add: “That’s not cool. That’s totally not cool.’’

Asked about the incident in her postmatch news conference, Williams said she was “just in the zone’’ at the time and did not remember what she had said.

“It was just so intense out there,’’ she said, adding, “I thought it was a clear winner. I thought it was the hat-drop rule, where if you drop a hat you kind of replay the point. I don’t know. I think for the most part I tried my best.’’

The fans fed off Williams’s ire, their decorum disintegrating. Spectators started applauding Stosur’s faults and shouting during points. The crowd’s collective fury seemed to take Stosur out of her comfort zone, something Williams, to that point, had been unable to do.

Stosur had not faced a break point in the first set, but was broken in her first service game after the controversial call. After Williams held serve, Stosur faced two break points.

Until recently, Stosur had a reputation for being physically buff and mentally fragile. Williams had won four of their six previous meetings, with one of her victories coming in Sydney in 2009 when Stosur held four match points.

Would Williams’s outburst have the dual effect of lighting her fire and dousing Stosur’s? Serving at 15-40 in the critical fourth game, Stosur produced a 111-mile-per-hour ace and a forehand that Williams could not pick up to climb back to deuce. Four points later, she served a 108-m.p.h. ace to hold.

“For sure it was difficult to stay focused,’’ Stosur said, “and then obviously the crowd got heavily involved. You know it was probably the loudest I ever felt a crowd in my whole entire life. It was definitely an overwhelming feeling. But once I hit that next ball in the court and started playing again, I felt settled. I guess it definitely could have been the big pivotal point in the match.’’

Stosur had withstood the storm, and after that Williams’s fury dissipated and an air of resignation settled over the crowd. Williams saved two match points on her serve, but Stosur earned a third and struck a forehand return winner off a 71-m.p.h. serve.

She dropped her racket and fell to the court. Williams came around the net to wrap her in a congratulatory hug but did not shake Asderaki’s hand. She sat staring into the distance as Stosur climbed into her guest box to embrace her relatives and friends.

With the victory Stosur became the first Australian woman to win a major championship since Evonne Goolagong Cawley at Wimbledon in 1980.

“I can’t actually believe I won this tournament,’’ said Stosur, who finished with 20 winners and 12 unforced errors. “To go out there and play the way I did is obviously just an unbelievable feeling.’’