Melbourne | Stosur and Zhang take AO doubles title
Home favourite Samantha Stosur is an Australian Open champion once more, teaming with Zhang Shuai from China to win the women’s doubles on Friday afternoon.
All you guys for coming out and supporting us. It was a pleasure playing in front of you today. I look forward to seeing you next year. Sam Stosur
Stosur and Zhang were emphatic in their defeat of 2nd seeds and reigning champions Timea Babos of Hungary and France’s Kristina Mladenovic, winning 6-3 6-4 in an hour and 34 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
The popular Queenslander was ecstatic in triumph 14 years after her mixed doubles success with Scott Draper.
Stosur dropped her racket on championship point as if in disbelief before embracing her great friend at the net.
The triumph was a redemption of sorts for the 34-year-old, who with partner Lisa Raymond held championship points to win the same title 13 years ago but failed to convert.
Stosur’s resolve was tested several times through the match; not more so than when she double faulted on her first championship point.
What followed was the point of the match, if not the tournament, a 25-point rally when both Stosur and Zhang missed a number of smash opportunities before holding steady to win another championship point.
Stosur and Zhang wouldn’t be denied on the next opportunity to claim the trophy.
Stosur lost her first round singles match at the Australian Open in another horror performance at her home Grand Slam but had a much better time of it when she paired with Zhang.
The unseeded duo defied the odds to qualify for the final against last year’s champions Babos and Mladenovic, and then went one step better by pulling off the upset.
Stosur and Zhang gave their opponents such a fright their frayed nerves started to show as they realised they had a serious fight on their hands.
There was plenty of tension on the court during the first set when Mladenovic appeared to say ‘come on’ to celebrate a Stosur fault on her first serve, hardly the definition of proper tennis etiquette.
The feisty Frenchwoman also reportedly gave Stosur a hard time when she missed a couple of ball tosses and needed to pull out of serves before having another crack.
It’s a curse that hits every tennis player, but for some reason Stosur’s jitters looked like they might push Mladenovic over the edge.
The 25-year-old’s antics didn’t go down well with Aussie tennis great Alicia Molik, who ripped Mladenovic’s poor sportsmanship.
“Sam, not intentionally, needed a couple of ball tosses for her first serve. That’s no crime in tennis, not against the rules,” Molik said in commentary for Channel 9.
“Between serves Mladenovic gave her a hard time verbally [saying] ‘Get your toss up’. You can’t possibly do that. I don’t believe it’s right as a player to have any verbal interaction with your opponents.”
The homegrown hero and her partner, however, had the last laugh when they won five straight games to claim the opening set 6-3.
“I tell you what, the score sheet says it was five games in a row for Stosur and Zhang. They have all the momentum in this final,” Molik added.
The second set started in a similar fashion to the first, Stosur and Zhang showing some much-needed composure when put under the pump to hold a crucial service game and take things to 3-3.
Then they broke and held again to go ahead 5-3 and it was an advantage they didn’t relinquish, serving things out to secure the trophy with a straight win.
The controversy, however, was not over, as Channel 9, the host broadcaster in Australia, was criticised for not televising the trophy presentation.
It is Stosur’s third women’s doubles title at a Grand Slam after taking the US Open in 2005 and French Open in 2006.
The Aussie veteran has also claimed mixed doubles titles at the 2005 Australian Open and at Wimbledon in 2008 and 2014.
The stunning against-the-odds victory broke a four-year Grand Slam drought, with Zhang taking home her first piece of Grand Slam silverware.
Stosur is the first Australian to win the women’s doubles title at the country’s Grand Slam tournament since Alicia Molik teamed with Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia in 2005.
It was a momentous occasion for the pairing, with a fair amount of emotion displayed, an occasion that everyone watching on television missed, a monumental snub for one of Australia’s most-loved players.
Stosur paid tribute to her opponents, saying: “Firstly great tournament to you girls – obviously one of the best teams in the world. We were ready for a really tough one today, which it was.”
She then thanked her family and playing partner, saying: “Most importantly, Shaui my partner. It’s always a pleasure being on court with you.
“All you guys for coming out and supporting us. It was a pleasure playing in front of you today. I look forward to seeing you next year.”
Stosur also called the Australian Open ‘the best tournament in the world’.
Social media was quick to fire-up prompting Channel 9 to eventually show a brief highlights clip of the presentation, showing part of Stosur’s victory speech.
Fans let their outrage known on social media, saying an Australian’s speech after winning at their home tournament should have been televised.
One fan wrote on Twitter: “An amazing, historical, inspiring moment which we should have been able to see on TV, is the women’s doubles won by our very own Stosur not worthy?”
Another added: “Very disrespectful not showing the trophy presentation. Stosur, an Aussie, and Zhang winning her first slam title and you couldn’t even show them receiving their trophies.”
There were countless other tweets slamming the channel.
The incident occurs less than 24-hours after fans were incensed about John McEnroe’s line of questioning when speaking to Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard’s semi-final win over Stefanos Tsitsipas.
McEnroe has always done his own thing, becoming an insightful, and quirky, commentator around the world but there were mixed reviews when Channel 9 employed his services for the Australian Open.
His unique interviewing tactics grated many viewers when McEnroe stepped on-court to chat to Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard’s crushing semi-final win over Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The first few questions went to script. McEnroe asked about the match, about Rafa’s tournament to date and about Tsitsipas’ potential, all standard and straight-forward until he mentioned a bizarre encounter he had in the dressing room with Nadal.
“I’m gonna make a lot of people jealous,” McEnroe said. “At the end of the second set, I had to take a quick bathroom break. I was finishing taking this very quick bathroom break when I started to walk out, and I saw a naked Rafael Nadal in the bathroom.
“I thought to myself, ‘that looks a lot like my body.’
“No. Absolutely lying about that. I said to myself ‘I wish I had a body like that.'”
It didn’t go down well on social media and someone has even started a Change.org petition to have McEnroe removed from Channel 9’s future Aus Open broadcast.