Heartbreak for Stosur; Schiavone bags French Open

June 6, 2010 in Tennis by pacejmiller

I stayed up late last night hoping to watch Samantha Stosur capture the first female grand slam title for Australia in 30 years.

Not to be.  After downing heavyweights such as Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic in success matches, Stosur went into the French Open final against fellow debutant Francesca Schiavone as the strong favourite.  The 26-year-old Stosur had beaten the almost 30 Schiavone four times in a row, including in the final in Osaka and in the first round of the French Open last year.

Despite having the odds firmly on her side, Stosur stumbled to a 6-4, 7-6 (2) loss, giving Schiavone her first grand slam title and once again raising questions over Stosur’s mental toughness when she needs it most.

Coincidentally, that morning I came across a sports magazine from January 2010 that featured an article on Stosur, saying that it was going to be a big year for her as her mental strength was now beginning to catch up to her physical abilities.  She had always been considered a tremendous talent, but time after time, for whatever reason, she faltered at the final hurdle.

Last night was no different.  Most experts expected the younger, stronger Stosur to blow the feisty Schiavone off the court with her kick serve and thudding ground strokes.  Instead, Schiavone was the clear aggressor from start to finish, getting to the net, running after every shot, and going for the winner when the opportunity presented itself.  On the other hand, apart from a confident first service game, Stosur was extraordinarily passive.  She was hesitant, indecisive, and seemingly had no strategy against an opponent who just wanted it more.  Stosur’s first serve really let her down and she hit countless opportunities into the net.

Even though the final score indicated a close match, to me it felt like Schiavone was in control the whole way.  The key was capturing the first set, which Stosur could have done had she remained aggressive, but Schiavone took a few chances in the 9th game to get out to a lead and Stosur handed her the break with a double fault.

In the second set, there was a glimmer of hope when Stosur broke and consolidated for a 4-1 lead.  However, I never thought it was a safe lead because Stosur went back to being passive while Schiavone fought and scrapped for every point.  When Schiavone broke back and they went into the tiebreak, I knew the match was as good as over.

I’m sure Stosur will look back on her missed opportunities and wonder why she couldn’t have played the final like she did against Henin, Williams and Jankovic.  It’s heartbreaking for her but she can only learn from her mistakes.  Hopefully next time she makes a grand slam final (and the odds are pretty good), she’ll be able to take that next step and finally get over the hump.

As for Schiavone, what a terrific champion.  It’s great to see someone her age succeed at the highest level through dedication, hard work and heart.