Stosur and Zhang make the most of a limited partnership

Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai were more apart in 2021 than together. Between the Australian quarantine rules keeping Stosur at home and Zhang teaming up with Xu Yifan to target the Tokyo Olympics, the close friends could only play four tournaments together.

They won half of those, including a second Grand Slam title at the US Open, and took an 11-game winning streak as a team to the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara. It will be their second consecutive appearance during the year-end finals together. In 2019, they reached the semifinals, losing to Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic. In her three previous appearances, Stosur won the championship twice, in 2005-06 with Lisa Raymond, and a semifinalist in 2009 with Rennae Stubbs.

Australia: Opening defeats

With a win in their first Grand Slam title together at Stosur’s home country at the 2019 Australian Open, before splitting at the end of that season, the pair reunited for this year’s Australian swing. It didn’t go well. They lost in the first round of the Gippsland Trophy to Arina Rodionova and Storm Sanders, and the first round of the Australian Open to Leylah Fernandez and Heather Watson.

Stosur only returned to the tour for four months, during which Zhang performed solidly with partners like Xu and Eri Hozumi. Stosur, meanwhile, reached the Olympic quarterfinals with Ellen Perez.

Summer hard court: American dominance

When Stosur and Zhang were reunited after the Olympics, it was a different story. In Cincinnati, they survived super tiebreaks in their first four games, saving a match point against Anna Blinkova and Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the semifinals. But they passed those tests and were able to beat Gabriela Dabrowski and Luisa Stefani 7-5, 6-3 in the final to capture their third title together.

Champions Corner: Stosur and Zhang aren’t ready after US Open victory

Stosur and Zhang took that form to the US Open for a spectacular run to the title. They dropped just one set, against Coco Gauff and Caty McNally in the final. It was a feel-good run that bolstered both of their trophy cabinets – but more than that, it gave the team an unexpected opportunity to expand their partnership.

Road to WTA Finals, singles

Road to WTA Finals, doubles

“It certainly kept us going for another year,” Stosur said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen next year. I knew I wanted to play against Australia and after that, who knows? Now that we’re winning Grand Slams, you definitely want to keep going.”

.

Leave a Comment