NEW YORK—Teaming up at last year’s US Open, WTA tour veterans Samantha Stosur and Shuai Zhang shook up the tournament by advancing to the semifinals. A few months later, the duo tasted Grand Slam glory together for the first time by winning the Australian Open.
While the Australian-Chinese duo hasn’t won a tournament since then, they’ve kicked off their preparation for the year’s final major at the inaugural Bronx Open in winning fashion, defeating Katarina Srebotnik and Lidziya Marozava in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2.
The two teams stayed on even ground in the first set until the always-pivotal seventh game, when Stosur and Zhang secured a quick break after a couple of errors by Marozava, along with winning some extended baseline rallies and volley exchanges.
As Srebotnik served down 3-5, she and Marozava managed to fend off a set point. However, they weren’t able to stop Stosur and Zhang from taking the opener as the pair showed off all facets of their games: huge groundstrokes, expertly placed serves and a final volley winner by Zhang to clinch the first set.
Keeping up the intensity early on, the Australian Open champions broke Srebotnik’s serve in the first game of the second set and rolled from there, winning it under darkening clouds, which opened up right after match point.
This was Stosur and Zhang's first match together since Wimbledon, where they fell in the second round to the American pair of Danielle Collins and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in three sets.
Zhang and Stosur will be going for their second Grand Slam title of the season at the US Open. (Getty Images)
Handling Srebotnik and Marozava as comfortably as they did was an impressive feat, especially given Srebotnik’s status as a former world No. 1 in doubles. And the field here is particularly strong, with Stosur and Zhang the number-one seeds, followed by Hao-Ching and Latisha Chan, who’ve been near the top of the doubles game for several years now.
After the match, Stosur expressed confidence in her and Zhang’s ability to get back to their winning ways, despite not playing for some time, and facing such a deep draw.
“For us, it really doesn’t matter who we play,” she said. “We want to play our style and our game, and we haven’t played together since Wimbledon. The whole idea was to try and play here, and you play good quality opponents going into the US Open.
“Every tournament we treat really important: we’re ready to go from the first round,” she added. “For us, today was very good and thankfully we finished before the rain.”
And as they showed last year in New York, a lack of court time together isn’t much of a hindrance.
“We’ve played enough together to be able to pick it up, but still not playing together for six weeks or whatever together, it sometimes can feel like, ‘What are we doing?’ and you have to talk a little bit more, but that’s OK,” Stosur said. “We’ve played a lot, but it’s still important to be playing, especially going into a Grand Slam.”