Stosur outfoxes stuttering Sharapova

Tue, 25 Oct 21:51:00 2011

Samantha Stosur exploited an inconsistent Maria Sharapova to win their WTA Championships round-robin match 6-1 7-5 in Istanbul, her first victory in 10 matches against the Russian.

Sam Stosur - 0

Bringing the opening day of action to a close at the Sinan Erdem Arena - the first time the event has been held in Turkey - Australia’s surprise US Open champion played a solid game as Sharapova was unable to find her best form.

The Russian - only 24 but on the professional scene for over a decade - showed her undoubted ability in fits and starts but was unable to develop consistency in the first White Group match and third of the tournament.

Her errors included six double-faults and some wild shots under little pressure, possibly due to ring-rustiness after a recent spell nursing an ankle problem, and she was unable to take one of three break points offered up in the final game to save the match.

The 27-year-old Stosur, meanwhile, was largely efficient on her first serve - landing three-quarters in play to Sharapova’s 59 per cent - and she kept the errors to a minimum, apart from during a key game in the second set that probably would have seen her wrap it up a touch quicker.

The next White Group encounter is between Belarusian Victoria Azarenka and China's Na Li on Wednesday, while there were wins for Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki in respective Red Group clashes with Vera Zvonareva and Agnieszka Radwanska.

World number two Sharapova has rekindled her career to rise up the rankings after what seemed to be a terminal string of injury problems, but the season’s exertions appeared to have taken their toll on the three-times Grand Slam winner.

A succession of errors allowed the world number seven to break Sharapova to love at the first time of asking, while a pair of double faults and an unforced error handed Stosur the chance the break at 4-1, which she took.

The 2004 champion appeared to start the second set a different person, sandwiching two holds with a confident break before racing 40-0 up against serve.

But Stosur summoned superhuman strength to win the next five points, saving the three break points and setting up her next triumph, a somewhat fortunate break aided by some misses from the Russian.

Both followed with strong service games until a key period at 4-4: as they moved around an interminable deuce, Sharapova double faulted twice but was allowed to stay alive by some poor shots from the Aussie, eventually holding from what had been a weakened position.

Two more holds came before Sharapova self-destructed, double-faulting again in an error-ridden game that Stosur claimed to leave her serving for the match.

Sharapova was not going down without a fight and she bullied and harried her way to three break points - two around deuce - all of which were clawed back before Stosur opted to sit deep at the baseline while her opponent weakly fluffed into the net.

That handed match point to the Australian, which was fortuitously taken as a searing return from Sharapova landed just out, ending the Russian’s nine-match winning streak against Stosur.

Reda Maher (on Twitter @Reda_Maher) / Eurosport

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