Shenzhen | Stosur-Zhang notch first win at WTA Finals
On a day in which the World No 1, Ash Barty succumbed to substitute Kiki Bertens and Belinda Bencic kept her hopes alive with a win over Petra Kvitova, Tuesday’s doubles play turned out to be a successful for 2019 Australian Open champions Samantha Stosur & Zhang Shuai at the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen.
We were very clear and focused on what we wanted to do, and thankfully we executed that very well Sam Stosur
Kicking off round-robin play in the Purple Group, the Australian/Chinese pair came from a set behind to beat the Wimbledon runners-up Gabriela Dabrowski & Xu Yifan, 4-6 6-4 [10-5].
Later, 2019 Wimbledon champions Hsieh Su-wei & Barbora Strycova also needed a match tiebreak to move into the winner’s circle, outlasting Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova, 6-2 1-6 [10-5], completing their victory just after midnight.
After two matches for each team in the Purple Group, No 2 seeds Hsieh & Strycova are currently at the top of the table with a 2-0 record, which has clinched them a berth in the semi-finals.
Krejcikova & Siniakova and Stosur & Zhang will face each other on Thursday for the second semi-final spot coming out of their group.
Stosur & Zhang eked out their 86-minute victory with 21 winners to their opponents’ 19, fighting back from their first round-robin loss to Hsieh & Strycova on Sunday.
“We didn’t practice yesterday, I think that’s the big key for us!” Zhang said, with a laugh. “We ate good, slept well, we tried to relax.”
“We definitely stayed positive,” Stosur added to her teammate’s comment. “The other match [against Hsieh/Strycova], we played very well.”
In the opening frame, though, Canada’s Dabrowski & Xu from China fought back from an 0-3 deficit, winning 5 games in a row with solid play in the forecourt.
Dabrowski fended off 3 break points on her serve to close out the first set, which ended with a Xu put-away.
Stosur was imperilled on her serve early in the second set, as Dabrowski & Xu held 4 break points at 1-1, which would have given them a commanding set-and-a-break lead, but the Australian methodically erased them all, and she & Zhang staved off 5 more break points in the set en route to 5-4.
There, aggressive play by the Australian-Chinese duo led to a love break, with Stosur polishing off the set with a winning volley.
The groundstrokes of Zhang pulled her team to an early 3-1 lead in the match tiebreak, while Stosur’s volleys extended their lead further to 7-2.
They reached match point at 9-4, and although Xu saved 1 match point with a strong serve, Stosur fired a backhand return winner on the second opportunity to seal victory.
“I think both of the teams, we probably won the sets we shouldn’t have won!” Stosur laughed. “We got off to a really good start, 3-0, then let that kind of slip away with some unforced errors, and we really let them back into the match.
“The second set, they had a lot more opportunities to break us early on, but we held in there, and did what we could to try and keep holding serve, and then we got our opportunity and we took it.”
“In the super-tiebreak, we just came out more aggressive,” Stosur continued. “We were very clear and focused on what we wanted to do, and thankfully we executed that very well.”
Later, Hsieh & Strycova seemed to have everything going their way after the first set of their encounter with the all-Czech duo
“It was a really tough match for us, but we played really good,” said WTA Doubles World No 1 Strycova from the Czech Republic, after her team’s late-night victory.
“We helped each other, and at the end, we were maybe — I would not say lucky, but we played a better tiebreak.”
Strycova garnered the first break of the match with a volley winner, putting her team up 3-1, and she and her Taiwanese partner cruised to the one-set lead from there, firing 10 winners and just 2 unforced errors in the opening frame.
Krejcikova & Siniakova, winners of two Grand Slam titles in 2018, picked up their first service break of the rubber in the opening game of the second set, and completely turned around the momentum from there, racing through the second stanza to claim it 6-1 after Krejcikova fired a forehand winner down the line on set point.
Strycova then started the match tiebreak on fire, charging the net to put away 3 smashes in a row to grab the early 3-1 lead.
The pair continued to hold their lead, with Hsieh firing an error-forcing forehand to put her team ahead 8-5.
With the match on Hsieh’s racket, another Strycova putaway gave the pair 4 match points, and they converted their first opportunity on a long Krejcikova return.
Each team finished with 18 winners, but Hsieh & Strycova had 4 fewer unforced errors overall, leading to their narrow 75-minute victory.
“It was our goal to qualify here,” said Strycova. “We are here and try to enjoy every moment. We have a big team, so we enjoy on and off the court as well. It’s great to be here and we are really appreciative.”