Stosur and Zhang clinch the women’s doubles title

  • Matthew Trollope

Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai have earned a popular women’s doubles victory at Melbourne Park, beating second seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic to win Australian Open 2019.
Australia’s Stosur and China’s Zhang overcame the defending champions 6-3 6-4 in a tense final, thrilling home fans clamouring to see Stosur win her first Grand Slam title on home soil since 2005.

In her last Australian Open women's doubles final, all the way back in 2006, Stosur and Lisa Raymond held two match points but could not stop Yan Zi and Zheng Jie from running away with the title.

Stosur and Zhang: unseeded and now AO2019 champions!

This made Friday's victory for the Queenslander all the more sweet.
For Zhang, it was her first Grand Slam title of any kind, and she said during the on-court trophy presentation it was a "dream come true" for her.
"I'm really happy I won the Australian Open in Melbourne with my best friend," Zhang said later.  "For sure after here we should play more doubles because now we have high ranking. We can play a lot big tournaments. Last two years, me, I have injury. After, Sam has injury. We cannot play together.

"But now we healthy and we have high ranking. Also after here, we get a lot confidence. We should play more because we want win more."

The victory was a measure of revenge for Stosur and Zhang, who fell to the Hungarian-French team in last year’s US Open semifinals

Added Stosur: "We spend a lot of time together practicing every week, wherever we're at the same tournament. I think the friendship, the respect we have for each other is why we can then play so well together.

"It's just enjoyable. We have fun. We're smiling before every match. We say, ‘All right, let's have some fun, give it our best shot’. We know it's always the way we're going to play our best.

"I know she believes in me as I believe in her. We do it as a team. To now be holding a trophy, and for Shuai, her first Grand Slam, it's really exciting. I'm really happy that I can be the partner she has to be able to do that."

Like in their semifinal victory over Barbora Strycova and Marketa Vondrousova – during which they trailed 5-1 before storming back to win 7-5 in the first set – Stosur and Zhang were forced to recover from a slow start.

Stosur had to battle in a lengthy opening game on serve, which went to deuce nine times and lasted well over 10 minutes.
She held, but then she and Zhang fell behind 3-1 as Babos and Mladenovic combined more effectively and instinctively to earn the early advantage.

Zhang came alive in the ensuing games; during a purple patch of form she leaned into her shots and cracked some devastating winners from the back of the court.
A 1-3 deficit soon became a 4-3 lead, and when Stosur crushed an overhead winner to bring up break point in the next game, Mladenovic responded by double-faulting, handing the Aussie-Chinese duo another break.

With Stosur serving for the set, a tense game unfolded. She double faulted twice, faced two break points, saved them both, earned a set point, double faulted again – but eventually converted a second set point.

They had won five straight games, and although Babos and Mladenovic came at them hard in the second set, Stosur and Zhang did not wilt.
They saved a break point in the sixth game – one of 11 they faced throughout the match – yet held for 3-3.
In the next game, a heavy Stosur return followed by both she and Zhang charging the net forced an error from Mladenovic. And when Zhang landed a volley on the line for a winner on the next point, they had earned another crucial break.

Two games later, Stosur stepped up to the line to serve for the title. She and Zhang fell behind 0-30, faced a break point at 30-40, and Stosur double-faulted on their first match point.
Yet in an increasingly tense atmosphere at Rod Laver Arena, the Aussie remained calm on their second match point, outlasting Babos in a baseline rally to seal victory.

"(I was) a little bit nervous," Stosur admitted. "I actually have no idea where that first second serve landed because Shuai was in the way (laughter). This close or that close, I had no idea. I still felt confident because hadn't lost my serve all day. I felt like when I was really needing to, I was coming up with the goods on serve.

"With Shuai at the net, I think we were making good decisions out there. Obviously it was a very close game. I felt confident in both of us to be able to pull it out then."