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Stosur Wins a Spot for Australian Women on Court of Champions

Samantha Stosur of Australia
Samantha Stosur of Australia celebrates with the championship trophy after defeating Serena Williams of the United States to win the Women's Singles Final on Day Fourteen of the 2011 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. Photographer: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Samantha Stosur finally gave Australian women a spot in a special place at the U.S. Open.

An engraved metal panel in the Court of Champions leading toward the tournament’s main arena lists every singles winner since the event moved to the National Tennis Center in New York in 1978. Until yesterday, no Australian woman had made the list.

Stosur, a native of Brisbane in Queensland state, defeated three-time champion Serena Williams of the U.S. 6-2, 6-3 to become the first woman from her homeland to win the title since Margaret Court in 1973.

“I didn’t start playing to break records or anything like that,'' Stosur said in a news conference. ``My goal and dream since I started was to win a Grand Slam. Being an Australian with that great history, and now to break that drought, is obviously very special.”

Stosur, 27, won her first Grand Slam title and became the first Australian woman to capture any of tennis’s four major tournaments since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980 at Wimbledon.

Stosur, a former top-ranked doubles player, was in her second major final, having lost to Francesca Schiavone of Italy at the 2010 French Open championship match.

“If I was going to win, I didn’t think that I’d be able to do it in 6-2, 6-3, that’s for sure,” Stosur said. “After that first set I kind of sat down and I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest and I thought, ‘OK, I’m a set up now, I’ve got a chance to win one out of the next two.’”

Stosur’s first singles title in New York follows another record-setting run at the year’s final major. Her three-set victory against Russia’s Maria Kirilenko in the fourth round featured the longest tiebreaker in women’s Grand Slam history at 32 points. It came a year after she played in the tournament’s latest-finishing women’s match.

‘Cracking the Ball’

Williams, a 13-time Grand Slam champion, took a 4-2 career record against Stosur into the final, including a 6-4, 6-2 win in mid-August in Toronto.

“She was cracking them today,” Williams, 29, said in a news conference. “She definitely hit hard and just went for broke.”

The last time an Australian took the U.S. Open women’s crown was when Court claimed her record-extending 24th women’s major singles title. The tournament was then held on grass at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York.

At least one Australian woman was in the U.S. Open final in eight of the nine years from 1969 to 1977 -- Court in 1969 and 1970; Kerry Reid in 1972; Court and Goolagong in 1973; Goolagong in 1974-76; and Wendy Turnbull in 1977.

None had been in the final since the tournament moved to its present location with hardcourts in 1978.

Former Doubles Player

Stosur started playing tennis at age 8 when a friend gave her a racket as a Christmas present. She joined the Australian Institute of Sport at 16 and turned professional in 1999.

Stosur, who reached the WTA Tour’s No. 1 ranking in doubles in February 2006, was sidelined for 10 months after getting Lyme disease in July 2007 and didn’t return to the women’s circuit until June 2008. She won her first WTA singles title in Osaka the following year.

At last year’s French Open, she became the first player since 2000 to beat Justine Henin and Williams in the same Grand Slam tournament, and ended Henin’s 24-match winning streak in Paris.

“It’s obviously hard to compare today to any other match,” Stosur said. “I’ve played matches where I feel like I played lights out, but to do it in these circumstances in this kind of final against a player like Serena, for sure I’m going to think it’s one of the best days of my career.”

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