The last time Australian former US Open champion Samantha Stosur went to the second week of a grand slam was 2012, when she visited the finals of two of the four slams on offer.
Now, she is within a racquet’s distance of heading to the second Roland Garros Final of her career, where history shows us she is at least a 50-50 chance in the final stage of a grand slam.
But since that last grand slam quarterfinal in September 2012, Stosur has played 13 grand slams, reaching the fourth round only twice. It is an abysmal fall for the former world number 4.
However, in her favour is recent good form, particularly on clay, where she has reached the finals in five of her six clay court tournaments this year, including RG. She is also on track for her highest year-end ranking since ’12.
She has played her next opponent, Spanish world #4 Garbine Muguruza, only once, at the 2014 Madrid Open where she won in just under two hours, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1.
However, Muguruza was a fresh-faced 20 year-old, and ended that year outside the top 100. She is now one of the world’s best, but is infinitely less experienced than Sam in these tournaments.
Stosur and Muguruza are pretty similar players, surprisingly so, as the Spanish usually produce vastly different players, often raised on clay as opposed to the hard courts of Australia.
Sam is in far better form than her opponent, which should count for something, and has shown through her two come from behind wins in a row that she is damn serious about her chances at this year’s French Open.
She enjoys the power on power battles that this is likely to be, and with two great forehands and powerful serves coming up against each other, it will likely be the big points that decide the match – Stosur HAS to own them.
She wins through the semi-final, beating Muguruza in a tight three setter, and faces none other than old sparring partner Serena Williams in the Final.
Believe it or not, this will not bother Sam, as she is 1-0 on Williams in grand slam finals, and is 3-8 over her career, which is not at all terrible against of the all-time greats. She won their last encounter, in Beijing 2014.
Of course, Stosur’s most famous of the 3 victories, and likely the greatest match of her life at the 2011 US Open, where she beat Serena 6-2, 6-3 in little over an hour. Just how did she do it?
Par for the course in a grand slam final is limited unforced errors, especially on Sam’s better shots such as her serve and her beastly topspin forehand. Lose the advantage of these weapons and she loses the match.
In her 2011 victory in the US Open Final, Stosur won 64% of rallies that ended in fewer than two shots, showing just how important serving well is against Williams, even if you don’t get the ace.
Just as important as serving will be returning, as Serena’s powerful serve will win her free point after free point if not combated. In that 2011 Final, Sam won an incredible 40% of Williams’ first serve points.
Whilst that is a once in a career statistic against a player like Serena, returning her monstrous serve will not be as hard a task on clay than it is on the hard courts at Flushing Meadows.
Of course, making Williams run and using her athletic superiority will also be important to Stosur in this potential match-up, but either way, she’ll need to play the match of her life to add the Parisian Slam to her trophy cabinet.
Actually, she’ll need to play two of them. In a row.