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Sam Stosur bucks trend, beats Safarova

By Sarah Edworthy   on   Friday 27 May 2016
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There are times when enough is enough, and that's the spirit Sam Stosur took on to Philippe-Chatrier Court today to earn a place in the last 16 by beating Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-7(0), 7-5.

There are times when enough is enough, and that's the spirit Sam Stosur took on to Philippe-Chatrier Court today to earn a place in the last 16 by beating Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-7(0), 7-5.

On paper, this was a match between two previous finalists at Roland-Garros who both relish the clay, but the match-up between the Australian who reached the last stage in 2010 and the Czech who achieved the same last year came with caveats on both sides. Their pedigree here promised an intriguing contest, but not necessarily in the scheme of pure shot play.

This was an important psychological test for Stosur. Going into their 15th encounter, the head-to-head record was woeful reading for the 32-year-old Australian - 3-11, her worst against any active player (not including the provisionally suspended Maria Sharapova). A recent injury to her left wrist only increased the usual alarms bells which trouble her fans whenever she is drawn against a left-handed opponent.

It was no surprise to see Safarova send a barrage towards her backhand side - a tactic she employed from the second point of the opening game. But with emphatic serving and doughty resilience the No.21 seed's determination to finally halt the slide of negative results against the Czech was wholly admirable - even though she did run around a couple of backhands.

"I knew going into it I was going to have to play really well. It was a high-level match right from the start. To get through that, it's just awesome," she said, agreeing her form had stepped back up to the level that brought her best results her in 2009, 2010 and 2012. "I said after the match, Jeez, I can't remember being so happy to win third round. It means a lot."

It was the classic rollercoaster between two women who like to slug it out from the baseline. Stosur failed to capitalise on three break points early in the first set but broke in the eighth game to take the opener 6-3.

"I said after the match, Jeez, I can't remember being so happy to win third round. It means a lot."

She fought back from a 0-3 deficit in the second to prompt a tie-break, which she then inexplicably lost to love. A wobble, moi? They are not unknown. It was either a brief spell of nerves on one side of the net or a superlative case of bouncebackability from Safarova who produced an astonishing array of winners from her arsenal to level the stakes.

The missed opportunity to snatch a straight-sets victory seemed to signal another 'enough is enough' moment. Stosur won the first three games of the deciding set, looked to be on a roll, only for the wily Safarova to break back in the seventh. Both women served well throughout, but it was the Czech who faltered at the crucial moment. Serving to stay in the final set, she was quickly 15-30 down and put a forehand long to find match point against her.

Stosur was not going to let this chance escape. While spectators sipped their glasses of rose and nibbled baguettes, Safarova had to swallow the uncomfortable truth that she had arrived in Paris as the 2015 singles finalist and defending women's doubles champion and within 24 hours had been despatched from both draws.

The win will mean more as a fillip for Stosur than the defeat will trouble Safarova, for the Czech can look to a list of mitigating circumstances. Since pushing Serena Williams to three sets in last year's Roland-Garros final, the 29-year-old has suffered injury, an infection that hospitalised her and a recent bout of food poisoning. Besides a tournament victory in front of home support in Prague, she has only twice won a singles match all year.

As for Stosur, not only did she upset a player seeded 10 places above her to earn a last-16 berth against Simona Halep, she proved a point to carry forward into what will be a tricky contest against Halep who humiliated her 6-2, 6-0 in their last meeting in Madrid.

"She's a player you have to beat. She doesn't give too much away. Obviously I will go back and remember why I fell apart, but I'm not going to lose too much sleep over that match going into this next one," she said.

Match point: Stosur v Safarova
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