Aussie Veteran Samantha Stosur & Zhang Shuai from China lifted their second major trophy together after defeating American teenagers Coco Gauff & Caty McNally in the US Open women’s doubles final on Sunday afternoon.
We were playing again a couple of youngsters who even, though, they’re so young, but they’ve got quite a bit of experience. They just play fearless. Credit to them. I think they’re a really great team. Again, no doubt they’re going to be back in situations like this, challenging for titles. Not just yet, not today. Sam Stosur
In their 11th straight match, the No 14 seeds outlasted the 11th-seeded Americans, 6-3 3-6 6-3, in a very close and thrilling contest on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Stosur has now claimed 4 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, two of which have come in New York, the first back in 2005 alongside Lisa Raymond, as well as the 2006 Roland Garros title, also with Raymond, in addition to 3 mixed doubles Grand Slam titles.
Since first teaming up in 2013, good friends Stosur & Zhang have weathered the ecstatic highs and brutal lows of this sport.
When the Chinese player contemplated retirement at the start of the 2016 season, it was Stosur who encouraged her to carry on, leading to Zhang’s first Grand Slam break-through to the Australian Open quarter-finals that same year.
Their intermittent partnership finally caught fire in 2018, when they teamed up to reach their first Grand Slam semi-final in New York, and then went on to capture the 2019 Australian Open trophy, which was an emotional home-turf personal triumph for Stosur.
The 37-year-old Australian’s New York win in doubles this year comes 10 years after she won her only singles major title at the US Open, when she stormed past Serena Williams in the 2011 final.
Stosur & 32-year-old Zhang arrived in New York with the Cincinnati doubles in hand, and they raced to the final without dropping a set after toppling the likes of No 3 seeds Ena Shibahara & Shuko Aoyama and No 7 seeds Desirae Krawczyk & Alexa Guarachi along the way.
They had not dropped a set at the US Open until running up against Gauff & McNally, the first teenagers to reach the final in Flushing Meadows since 2013.
“It’s just a huge satisfaction to know what I’m doing, all the hard work, everything that you do day in, day out still pays off,” Stosur said. “You can play in an amazing stadium in front of a great crowd, serve out the match for a Grand Slam title. Be like, ‘Yeah, I can do this.’
“That’s exactly what we play for, we love those moments. To have those opportunities is just the best. So thankful to still be out there, competing, and being able to play the way I am.”
The near 2-hour-long 3-set tussle could not have been closer as both teams held onto their serves emphatically, and the win came down to the wire with just one extra break, which the Australian-Chinese pair grabbed in the final set.
“It was just such a tight tussle the whole match, a few points here and there,” Stosur said during the champions’ press conference. “We stuck together as a team, played aggressive, went for it as we always do, and it pays off.
“It’s just a phenomenal feeling to have this trophy again 16 years later. Winning the singles here, I’ve got so many amazing memories here playing in New York.
“I love coming back here, I love the courts, I love the atmosphere. Obviously a very special place for me. It’s brought out some of my best tennis in my career over obviously many, many years.”
“We are so good friends, forever,” Zhang added. “When we’re on court, no matter [if] we win or lose – yes, today we won – but some days we lost, it’s okay. We’re still happy on court. Now nothing can break us I think. We will for sure play together more.”
The opening set turned quickly in Stosur and Zhang’s favour as they reeled off the last 9 points in a row, breaking the McNally serve from 4-3, love-40.
The American teenagers rallied in the second set due to strong serving from Gauff and bold net poaches from 19-year old McNally, which put the veterans under pressure, and when Gauff attacked a high-bouncing Zhang second-serve to grab the break at 5-3, the match went into a deciding set.
Stosur & Zhang silenced the home fans when they saved 2 break points to hold for 4-3 in the third set before the Chinese struck a sizzling cross-court backhand, and they broke the McNally serve for a second time with a return winner to lift the US Open title after a Gauff return sailed long.
As Stosur & Zhang celebrated, 17-year old Gauff slammed her racket into the court and then threw it towards the side advertising boards, where it bounced up and nearly hit a child.
After shaking hands with her opponents at the net, Gauff headed over to the young boy to apologise and gave him one of her rackets.
She could now be facing a hefty fine after her furious reaction to her loss.
“I mean, I lost a Grand Slam final. There’s nothing else to say. Just disappointment,” said Gauff in her press conference after the match when asked about the incident. “I didn’t mean for the racket to go as it did, but I did throw it. Probably not the best behaviour on my side.
“But I don’t think there’s any explanation I can do for the frustration. I mean, we had our chances. I knew that. I think the crowd knew that.
“Yeah, I don’t mean to do that in the moment, but I let my emotions take over. I kind of don’t regret it. I only regret the racket went so far and almost hit the kid. He was fine. I gave it to him.”
Despite the loss, it was still a breakthrough week for ‘Team McCoco’, as Gauff & McNally reached their first Grand Slam semi-final and final together.
“Obviously not the result that we wanted, but we were there,” Gauff said on court after the match. “I think the match was decided within, like, three or four points. I think for next time we know how to do better on those points.
“Our opponents, Shuai and Sam, played a great match. There’s a reason why they’ve both had a couple Grand Slams, great results in Grand Slams.”
As for the new champions, Stosur & Zhang were delighted with the success and paid tribute to the younger pair.
“We were playing again a couple of youngsters who even, though, they’re so young, but they’ve got quite a bit of experience,” said Stosur. “They just play fearless.
“Credit to them. I think they’re a really great team. Again, no doubt they’re going to be back in situations like this, challenging for titles. Not just yet, not today.”
After spending most of the 2021 season playing with different partners in preparation for their respective Olympic campaigns, Stosur & Zhang were reunited in August and have won 11 matches in a row since then, including the WTA 1000 title in Cincinnati during the US Open Series, and now their second Grand Slam title as a team at the US Open.
With most of her compatriots contesting the National Games of China back home, Zhang was the only player, male or female, from her country to feature in the singles or doubles draw in New York this year.
“For sure it was not easy [to choose to play the US Open instead]. Never easy,” Zhang said. “I am really proud that I keep playing with Sam.
“Sam always takes care [of] me. We are so happy we won. This means so much.”