As LL Cool J once rhymed off in a song ‘Don’t call it a comeback – I’ve been here for years’. The same could be said of Serena Williams and her recent return to the WTA Tour – her competition is taking notice and should be careful because Williams is gonna’ knock them out. And that was exactly the case for number ten seed Samantha Stosur as Williams pulled away to win the 2011 Rogers Cup in Toronto in straight sets on Sunday afternoon.
Since her return from an 11-month layoff due to injury and health problems there has been a lot of talk of whether Williams is able to play at a high level – let alone win a tournament. But it didn’t take her very long to start a winning streak – winning the tournament at Stanford last week and now the Rogers Cup. As the tournament progressed, Williams improved with every match and showed just how dominant of a tennis player she can be and the scary thing is – she can play better.
“My game is here,” said Williams after winning her second Rogers Cup – ten years after her first.
“I feel like there are a lot of improvements I want to make – being able to close out big points and winning on big points and capitalizing on that. Still returning a little bit better, but overall it’s solid. I want to definitely keep it up and not go down. Definitely don’t want to go down from here. I only think I want to go up.”
That’s exactly what she’s done – Williams came into the week ranked 80th in the world, but after winning in Toronto, her projected ranking is expected to move all the way up to 31. Not too shabby after four tournaments.
“I guess she makes it look very easy, and it’s not that easy just to come back on tour and win two events in your first four tournaments,” said Stosur after the loss and is now 2-4 against Williams in her career. “I think she’s playing very well. To win a tournament like this, you have to be playing well.”
Williams will play in Cincinnati next week and will look to continue her strong play heading into the US Open. However, after all she has been through in the past year she has learned to simplify her approach to thinking about the future.
“I went through a lot of things physically and mentally and emotionally, and going through so much, so I’m just taking it one day at a time and kind of like one match at a time and just going with it.”
The match started out with both players demonstrating their power – on serves and returns – and took turns holding serve for the first eight games of the first set. Tied at 4-4, Stosur looked like she would once again take the lead being up 40-15 in the game. However, Williams was able to claw her way back and force deuce with a wonderful passing shot into the back corner along the left baseline. With her second advantage, Williams was finally able to break serve after hitting a terrific cross court winner past Stosur to go up 5-4. Williams then won the set on her service and celebrated with one of her trademark fist pumps.
It seemed as though Williams figured out Stosur’s serve and made adjustments. As a result, she was then able to break the Australian’s serve twice in the second set.
“I definitely think that’s when the match started changing, but for the most part I was really fighting until that point and obviously after that point I kept fighting,” said Williams. “It was definitely a big point, I think.”
Stosur also acknowledged that the break was a possible turning point in the match.
“Yeah, I think at four‑all I had 40‑15 up on serve, and to lose that, obviously you never want to lose serve, but especially being up in the game and really kind of holding quite comfortably up until that point, it’s disappointing to lose that,” said Stosur.
“But I came out the next game, tried to break serve, and I don’t know if I really got too close to really breaking too many times. I had a breakpoint in that last game, but I think that’s just tennis, you know. I stepped up to the line every single time and tried to win every single point. But once an opponent gets a certain lead, sometimes it really boosts them and makes it a bit more difficult.”
The first game of the second set was hard fought and went to deuce again but Williams was able to break Stosur’s serve for the second time. Then she continued her strong service to take the second game and led 2-0. Williams gave Stosur’s service more trouble in the third game, but the Australian was barely able to hold serve, closing the gap to 2-1. Williams opened the next game with an ace and won it in straight points. Then Stosur’s service troubles continued in the next game and it seemed as though she was trying something different to throw off her opponent. However, it failed to work as she double faulted and made three unforced errors falling behind 4-1.
Williams broke serve once again and then fired two aces past Stosur on her service to go up 5-1, taking a stranglehold on the match. Up 5-2, Williams was serving for the match and opened the game with two consecutive aces to the amazement of the crowd at Rexall Centre. She lost the next three points before nailing another ace to set up deuce. With the advantage, Williams then fired yet another ace, ninth of the day, past Aussie to win the match.
Perhaps the most remarkable part of Williams’ victory was how she was able to seal it in the end – blowing four aces, including the match winner, past Stosur in the final game.
“I kept thinking, hit an ace, hit an ace, hit an ace, because I knew at that point I didn’t want to hit too many shots because I felt like I was getting a little tight.”
After her game winning ace, Williams jumped in the air and pumped her fists in celebration. Any win after the lengthy layoff is special for Williams but to win a big tournament like the Rogers Cup made her feel even better about her achievement.
“This is a really big tournament outside of a Grand Slam. I haven’t been winning a lot of big tournaments, so it was pretty cool. It was just a big tournament for me,” said Williams.
“Being down the way I’ve been down and coming back, it was cool. Eight months ago if there was only one tournament I wanted to win, it was Toronto. For whatever reason, I really wanted to win this event. So seeing it come true is really cool. Just going through so much and being able to win is even more amazing.”
In doubles, the final was not played because Victoria Azarenka suffered a hand injury, forcing her and her partner, Maria Kirilenko, to withdraw from the match. With the walkover, Americans Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond became the 2011 Rogers Cup doubles champions.
Click HERE to see more of JP Dhanoa’s pictures of Rogers Cup – 2011 – WTA – Finals
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