Sam Stosur Hot Favourite In Her First Slam Final
She’s probably not the opponent Stosur dreamed of meeting in her first Slam final. Like most players who fight their way through a packed draw and come out best, Stosur could be forgiven for thinking that her opponent in tonight’s clash could be a walk in the park compared to what she’s already overcome. She’s toppled a woman who hadn’t lost at Roland Garros since 2004 in Justine Henin and slain the most fierce competitor in women’s tennis, Serena Williams. As if that were not enough, she handed out an old-fashioned whooping to her semi-final opponent, Jelena Jankovic, who was seeded higher than Stosur and had more experience at a high level. Stosur’s finals opponent is not a woman known for her deadly backhand, fighting ability, or retrieving skills. Instead, Stosur’s opponent isn’t really known for anything. The 29-year-old Italian woman had never been past the final eight at a major before now and rolled into the tournament as the seventeenth seed.
Francesca Schiavone shouldn’t be underestimated. Nobody should in a Slam final, the mentality required to get a player to that stage demands immediate respect. Schiavone hasn’t had it easy either; she’s taken out Australian Open semi-finalist Li Na, defending-champion slayer Maria Kirilenko, number three seed Caroline Wozniacki, and her semi-finalist opponent Elena Dementieva. It’s not quite the opposing draw Stosur has had, clearly. Li and Kirilenko are not known as consistent opponents, Wozniacki’s least favourite surface is clay, and Dementieva retired with a calf injury after the first set. Still, scalps like that demand caution, and the plucky Italian will be doing her best to bring pride to her home country. “Now I start to feel that it is really big history… we are happy I think in Italy, also. They are very happy, and is time to enjoy for us, for everybody.”
Stosur is also hoping to bring a Grand Slam home to a nation that hasn’t seen a woman lift one since Margaret Court thirty-seven years ago. There is certainly more expectation on her 26 year-old shoulders than those of Schiavone, although she has attempted to downplay her chances based on form.
“I know it is a final and everything else, and I have had some great matches up to this point, but none of those win me the match. I’ve got to go out there and try and play it like any other match, and go out there and play my game and try and block all those other things out.”
Stosur is expected to win tonight and if she doesn’t she is bound to feel disappointment. Schiavone, on the other hand, will probably be satisfied with her performance regardless, not to say she doesn’t want to win. This puts pressure on Stosur, something she hasn’t had to deal with so far this tournament against such higher ranked opponents. The number seventh seed suddenly finds that Australia is paying her some overdue attention and her family jumped on a plane overnight to attend the final. The woman’s final has also being picked up by free-to-air T.V in Australia, something that is almost unheard of in a land that loves sports but doesn’t count tennis among the top. Should Stosur lift the trophy tonight, she will bring a much-needed boost to tennis in Australia. Even more importantly, Stosur will bring more hope to the WTA which has been slowly reviving itself since the return of Henin and Kim Clijsters.
Tonight’s final will be a tussle between two softly spoken women who bring to the match a refreshing down-to-earth quality not always seen in a sport dominated by magazine-gracing stars. Stosur is out to prove that she is not a blip on the radar, that she’s a solid contender and simultaneously a late-starter and an up-and-comer. Unfortunately for her, Schiavone is out to show the world exactly the same thing. Stosur and Schiavone are both playing the match of their careers tonight but only one of them will bring home a Grand Slam.