Two of tennis’ leading ladies command the spotlight on the great stage of Arthur Ashe Stadium this afternoon, as Serena Williams faces Samantha Stosur in the women’s final of the 2011 US Open. Both women have performed brilliantly to this point, but only one can stand alone when the curtain rings down. After a tournament filled with daily drama and myriad plot twists, this final act for the women should help bring this year’s Open to a memorable close.
No. 9 seed Stosur has logged some serious court time in reaching her second career Grand Slam final—the first appearance by an Australian woman in the US Open final since Wendy Turnbull finished runner-up here in 1977. The 27-year-old Aussie, a finalist at Roland Garros in 2010, needed 3 hours, 16 minutes to win her third-round match against Nadia Petrova—the longest women's match at the US Open since the introduction of the tiebreaker in 1970. Two days later, Stosur was on the losing end of the longest tiebreaker (17-15) in the history of women's Grand Slam tennis, but still beat Maria Kirilenko in three sets. To this point, Stosur has spent 11 hours, 28 minutes on court—the most of any woman. Those long hours are indicative of Stosur’s solid work ethic and never-say-die attitude. Long recognized as one of the hardest workers on the women’s tour, Stosur is a tenacious and talented competitor who utilizes a potent serve, powerful forehand, and keen court sense to wear down opponents. This is Stosur’s third final of 2011, earlier finishing runner-up in Rome and Toronto. In the latter, she lost to Williams, who owns a slim 4-3 lead in their career meetings.
Williams has been an especially dominant force during this US Open, playing her way into her 17th career Grand Slam final without the loss of a set. She may be the No. 28 seed here, but there’s little doubt of who’s been the No. 1 woman in this tournament, as Williams has dismantled her opposition with surgical precision in pursuit of her fourth US Open crown. Her straight-set dismissal of top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the semis ran her hard-court winning streak to 18 straight matches, and she now owns a 52-8 career record here in Flushing. Throughout this event, the 29-year-old Williams has played like a woman paying for court time—her six matches have totaled 7 hours, 34 minutes. Only once has she spent more than 90 minutes on court in a match. As Olympus US Open Series champ, Williams stands to make a cool $1 million bonus if she can back up her summer success with a US Open title, meaning a win today translates into $2.8 million—the largest prize money payout in the history of tennis. While a major payday will no doubt be nice, a fourth US Open crown also would make a major statement on Williams’ place as one of the greatest ever to play the game.
Against most players, you’d have to give a competitor of Stosur’s obvious ability and tenacity a fighting chance. But as she’s shown time and again, Williams is not most players. Simply put, there’s not a thing that Stosur does that Williams doesn’t do better. The three-time US Open champ has played from the start like a woman with her sights set on title number four. This close to the finish, there’s no way she’ll lose that focus. In two, Williams is the 2011 US Open women’s champion.